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What new rules for pornographic sites does Great Britain introduce under the pretext of protecting minors

The authorities have already suggested checking the age of visitors to adult sites with the help of “porn passes”, but this is only part of the large-scale reforms.


Neon sign at the London cafe. Reuters photo
Neon sign at the London cafe. Reuters photo

At the end of April 2018 in the UK were to publish new rules on providing access to pornographic sites, which since the announcement in 2017 cause controversy and criticism. The main goal of the reforms is to oblige all the world and local adult sites to use the age confirmation system before entering – so the authorities expect to limit the access of minors to porn sites.

Due to technological difficulties, the government postponed the date of publication of new requirements by the end of 2018. Judging by the media, experts have not yet decided on the method of user verification: among options, authorities are considering confirmation on a bank card, passport or the so-called “porno-pass.” The reaction of the public is ambiguous: on the one hand, the conservative part of citizens supports the idea of ​​controlling pornography on the network, but porn bloggers and Internet activists consider reform to be censorship.

With what rules will porn sites collide

The UK authorities will require all sites with visual porn content to introduce a visitor age verification system to block access to content to people under 18 years of age. The British Council for Cinema and Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for regulating the law, which has the right to recommend authors to cut out unwanted content or to ban a media product on the territory of the country.

In the event of failure to comply with the rules, the authorities will require local providers to block access to the intruder site in the UK, and their owners may be fined $ 350,000 or 5% of their income. In December 2017, the head of the British Council David Austin explained that these sanctions are designed to protect “children and vulnerable groups of people from harmful content.”

It is not known exactly how the age verification system for pornographic sites should work – the lawmakers promised to publish the rules by the end of 2018. Perhaps to confirm the age, visitors will need to enter passport data, a driver’s license number or a bank card, but this imposes an additional risk of leakage of private data in the event of a pornographic site being hacked.

Head of the British Council for Film and Classification David Austin. Screenshot from the video BBC
Head of the British Council for Film and Classification David Austin. Screenshot from the video BBC
In order to avoid theft of personal data, the authors of the law consider theoption of creating special “porn pass” (16-digit codes), which can be bought in stores or kiosks with a passport. The price of such a pass can be 10 pounds (about 840 rubles) and will allow you to purchase other products for adults such as cigarettes or alcohol on the Internet. Legislators believe that this is a safer way of verification, since visitors do not have to enter passport or bank data. It remains unclear whether the passes will have a shelf-life and who will be responsible for their production.

Another of the likely options is offered by the largest owner of pornographic content on the Internet MindGeek , “developing a solution for confirming the age on porn sites.” This means the AgeID system – it will allow users to access any porn site whose owners have signed an agreement with AgeID, without having to constantly enter data for confirmation. For automatic access to pornographic sites, visitors will only need to enter their e-mail address and password once, then confirm their legal age through the internal system.

AgeID will be available for private British studios, producers and bloggers, and all other resources will have to pay an additional tax (the price is not disclosed) for the service. MindGeek expects that at least 25 million people in the UK will be interested in its service, but it sounds like a marketing wickedness, as there are enough AgeID analogs in the country.

Who is the initiator of the reform

In 2017, the British Parliament approved a law on digital media broadcasting Digital Economy Act 2017 , which also discussed new rules for providing access to pornographic sites. The idea of ​​the verification of visitors to adult sites was first proposed by politician Matthew Hancock. Under the second government of David Cameron, he served as general treasurer and cabinet minister, and in January 2018 he became Minister of Digital Technology, Culture, Media and Sports.

In March 2018, the Ministry postponed the publication of all necessary documents on the new law on pornographic sites before the end of the year, explaining this by the desire to finalize the draft. After this, the British Council for Cinema and Classification announced the beginning of a public discussion of the initiatives that took place from March to April. The results of the hearings were promised later in the year.

Who opposes reform

Writer and founder of the public group “Sex and Censorship” Jerry Barnett told reporters that the introduction of new rules for porn sites “will fundamentally change the Internet in the UK and perhaps in the world.” With the coming into force of the law, it will be possible for the first time to block websites massively without a court decision, the activist adds. “Although it is served as a way to protect children from porn, in fact it is not. [The law] will lead to the blocking of any sites that run counter to the strict British content rules, ” concludes Barnett.

The activist agrees with the lecturer of the British law school UEA and the author of the book on cybersecurity Paul Bernal. “These [pornographic sites] are legal content, and creating barriers to adults for access to legal content in itself is damaging to freedom of speech and access to information,” the writer said.

The spread of new demands on foreign porn sites is connected with the desire of the British authorities to bring foreign resources in line with local ones on pain of losing traffic from the UK, saidlawyer Neal Brown, specializing in the Internet environment.

Skeptically, the law includes independent porn bloggers, who are also required to establish an age verification system. The author of the blog ” Girl in the Network “, devoted to reasoning about sex and erotic photos, lists possible consequences of the adoption of the law.

I pay my bills on the money that I get thanks to the site, so if the traffic falls dramatically (this is inevitable, even if I install a verification system, because many will not want to send personal data to read a blog filled with vulgarity), then I immediately lose my job .

Anonymous author of the porno blog “Girl in the network”

Prospects for new requirements

The authorities promised to publish details of the law on “verification of age” in late 2018. No new dates have been assigned, as well as additional announcements about the operation of the system. After the publication of all necessary documents, the law should be finally approved by the Parliament, after which the authorities will fix the date of its entry into force.

Some large pornographic sites are already working on a system that will help the owner of resources to comply with the new rules. However, while this work is almost blind, since it is not clear to the end what the demands of the government will be. According to experts, the reform will affect up to 34 million people in the UK.

The effectiveness of the new law in an attempt to protect children from pornography on the Internet is still open. As found by the National Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NSPCC), about half of children and adolescents visit adult sites by chance, as if “encroaching on them” on the network.

Example of a porn bot in Twitter
Example of a porn bot in Twitter

Reforms can stop this “accidental” factor, but children will still stumble upon adult content on other resources. For example, in Twitter, populated with erotic photos and porn bots. Representatives of the British Council on Cinema and Classification promised to ask the Twitter management to close the accounts of distributors of porn content after the new law came into force, but in the case of social networks, the regulator will not be able to threaten the owners with a lock. In other words, the final decision will remain for the leadership of Twitter.

As the British branch of the magazine Wired notes , the prospects for the new law are still vague, although the authors must prepare all the necessary documents by the end of 2018. Independent porn models and private studios are unhappy with the delays and severity of the rules, and the issue of the security of private user data after the entry into force of the law is still relevant. Do not forget about the risk that the reform will lead to an increase in porn content in social networks, to which the law does not spread.

The idea of ​​the authorities is relevant, as the impact of pornography on children and adolescents is the subject of constant discussions and research. However, it is still difficult to say with certainty that the millions of dollars that will be required to implement the program will be of use.

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