Government drops current plans for age verification to access pornography
In a written statement Nicky Morgan the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced that the age verification proposals that would have seen BBFC oversee blocking of sites that did not implement age verification (AV) have been dropped.
The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.Part of DCMS statement on online harms
The end of the age verification may not actually be the end, it is clearly the end of them being implemented as part of the Digital Economy Act and BBFC involvement but reading things carefully it looks likely that the regulator blessed with the wider Online Harms remit will have the decision to make. It appears at this time that rather than trying to enforce a single rule for all commercial porn sites that there may be some discretion as to how age verification is handled, but as is normal there is no detail. An important point is that it seems that one reason for dropping the current plans was that the AV system did not cover social media platforms, or any other site/app hosting pornographic content if the less than one third of the sites content was pornographic. Another exclusion was that only commercial sites were included.
The Online Harms white paper was only published in April 2019 and while there are many things that sane people don't want to see online balancing online freedom for individuals versus the collective UK is a difficult balancing act.
For those parents and others with responsibility for children, a key point to make is that it is important to talk to children and while as the responsible adult the task is to sometimes stop them doing things there is also an important role to play as being the person they can approach with concerns.
For parents there are a wide range of tools available to control what can be accessed online and the resource https://www.getsafeonline.org/safeguarding-children/ shows a number of the options available and answers some of those questions parents have. Additional they tailor the advice based on the age of the children and this is important to remember since in the teenage years children are increasingly independent to ready them for moving out of the home and then the awesome responsibility of being an adult.