What is Age Verification (AV)
AV is a system introduced under the Digital Economy Act 2017 which will require the operators of pornographic websites to have a system in place to verify that all their users are over 18.
When will it come into force
“Soon” The implementation date has been put back several times but the Government now say it will be in effect by Easter. There aren’t any more legislative steps that need approval.
Will this make it illegal for me to look at porn sites
No. Nothing that is currently legal to view online becomes illegal as a result of this act. The Act puts obligations on site operators to age verify people but doesn’t affect what people do online. There are of course a number of laws governing accessing illegal content online.
What about using a VPN – will I be able to do that:
Yes, again nothing in this act stops you using a VPN or similar system to access any sites.
Who is in charge of this
The BBFC has been designated as the Age Verification Regulator under the act. Their website includes their guidance on how this will operate.
What are they going to do
The regulator will require pornography sites to have age verification controls in place for sites accessed from the UK. The regulator can notify payment providers (like credit card companies) and ‘ancilliary companies’ (like advertisers) of sites which don’t comply. The intention is that they could then withdraw services. The regulator can also require ISPs to take steps to prevent access to non-compliant sites.
Will the regulator have any other powers
They will also be able to take similar action against sites which carry ‘extreme pornographic’ material.
What about sites like Twitter – they carry huge amounts of pornographic material?
Only ‘commerical’ sites will be covered by this. That is sites which
carry more than 1/3rd pornographic material or which is marketed as
providing pornographic material
###I run an adult website, what do I need to do?
The Age Verification Regulator’s website has more information.
Is this going to work
Well yes and no.
Yes because large porn sites (like MindGeek who operate PornHub and numerous other sites have been very supportive of the idea. Partly because they see it as good for business (They describe themselves as “a global industry-leading information technology firm”) enabling them to advertise to a wider range of customers. So they will be early adopters and will no doubt lobby the regulator to impose the same rules on their competitors. It will ultimately be more efficient for large companies to comply with the regulator then face the sanctions for non-compliance
And No because it will be possible for people to circumvent the need for age verification relatively easily with tools like a VPN.
Who supports this
The legislation was introduced by the Conservative government as part of a manifesto commitment.
They were broadly supported by the Labour spokespeople during the passage of legislation, though there were a number of amendments proposed
The Liberal Democrats though seem to be opposed
More details of what some politicians and other people have said are at: