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UK to enforce porn site age checks from April 2018

It's still not clear how it will work, however.
Nick Summers, @nisummers
July 17, 2017
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For years the UK government has toyed with the idea of introducing compulsory age checks for online pornography. In May, all of that talk finally came to a head with the Digital Economy Bill, which forces websites hosting adult content to snuff out under-18s. (Or at least try to, because there's always a way around such things.) Today, digital minister Matt Hancock announced that the new rule will come into effect next April. The exact implementation is still unclear, however. Forms that require your credit card details, or a check against the electoral roll have all been discussed, but we're still none the wiser about how it will actually work.

In a written statement, Hancock admitted the scheme was "complex." He also formalised the powers needed to appoint a regulator for the new law. The watchdog, which many assume will be the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), will be able to fine providers up to £250,000, or up to 5 percent of the turnover reported in their "most recent complete accounting period." In a statement to the BBC, a BBFC spokesperson said: "We are already working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to ensure the effective implementation of the Act."

Opinions are, unsurprisingly, split. Will Gardner, chief executive of internet safety charity Childnet said: "Steps like this to help restrict access, alongside the provision of free parental controls and education, are key." The Open Rights Group, however, has warned about the privacy issues that could arise as a result. "The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users," executive director Jim Killock said. "Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK's porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks."

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