Allies

Some people who have been supportive in Parliament

These are not in any particular order and come with some important qualifications.  The most important of which is that most of these people were clear that they do not oppose age verification completely.  However they are people who are on the record as having raised concerns about some aspect(s) of the legislation, particularly around privacy concerns which have not yet been completely resolved.

Some of those quoted here may have raised points which they considered to have been adequately dealt with in the bills passage either by amendment or be government agreement to bring include things in guidance.

This guide on how a bill becomes a law may also be helpful in understanding what was happening

 

Peers – House of Lords

Lord Paddick (Lib Dem)

“We also believe that everything should be done to ensure that adults can access websites that contain material that it is legal for them to view.”

“The ideal that there should be equal protection for children online as there is offline is a good one, but it is almost impossible to achieve through enforcement alone. We have to be realistic about how relatively easy it is to prevent children accessing physical material sold in geographic locations and how relatively difficult, if not impossible, it is to prevent determined children accessing online material on the internet, much of which is free. An increasing proportion of adult material is not commercially produced.”

Hansard link

“I challenge anyone to suggest that some of the things that are not allowed in R18 videos cause harm to anyone. They might be unpleasant or, in some people’s eyes, morally reprehensible, but certainly there are things that are not allowed because of the definition of prohibited material but cause harm to no one. ​That is an illustration, without going into specific gory details about what is and what is not allowed. That is why we are in the mess that we are in.”

Hansard link

Lord Paddick tabled Amendment 25YN (“to ensure that the details of those applying to have their age verified in order to access adult material on the internet remain anonymous.”)

“Age verification systems almost inevitably involve creating databases of those who are accessing adult material. It is completely lawful for those who wish to look at adult material to access these websites, but it is a sensitive area and many will be wary about or even deterred from accessing completely legal websites as a result. Security experts agree that unauthorised hacking of databases is almost inevitable, and the advice to organisations is to prepare contingency plans for when rather than if their databases are accessed by those without authority to do so. The consequences of breaching databases containing sensitive personal data can perhaps be most starkly illustrated by the public exposé of the personal details of those who were members of Ashley Madison, which reportedly resulted in two suicides. ​The risk to privacy can be reduced if the age verification regulator approves minimum standards for age verification providers. These are set out in the amendment.”

(As well as a similiar amendment at Committee stage – )

He is also quoted in this article

Lord Clement-Jones (Lib Dem)

Raised concerns about the lack of an appeal mechanism (though this area was the subject of later amendments)

Baroness Jones (Lab)

“We are simply trying to protect the status quo so that adults who currently look at material can carry on looking at it—and this has nothing to do with child protection and children’s access to pornography”

Hansard link

Labour abstained on vote

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-03-20/division/98D23425-AB03-4E49-A062-98437303E06E/DigitalEconomyBill?outputType=Party#division-7800

Lord Stevenson (Lab)

“[we are] very concerned by the idea that, under the new clauses, the designated age-verification regulator appears to be given powers to censor material that is not illegal, and to have powers to take down websites even though they may have satisfactory age-verification procedures in place. This cannot be right. Children have to be protected, but censorship is not the way to do things in this country.

Hansard link

Proposed amendments 61, 62 and 64 which would have removed the words ‘prohibited material’ from the Bill. At that time the bill would have put websites which carried ‘prohibited material’ at risk of sanction. ‘Prohibited material would have included anything that hadn’t been certified by the BBFC (so anything which didn’t meet R18 classification standards. Those amendments were rendered largely moot by government alterations to the Bill. Lord Stevenson also proved to be very responsive when sent communications about this at the time.

Details of his amendments:

They need to be read in conjunction with the bill at the time:

 

Earl Erroll

Chair of the Digital Policy Alliance

“My Lords, I want to say a few words because I have been working on the issue of age verification for a long time. I became interested in it when it became apparent a couple of years ago that it was going to come to the top of the agenda. For the last year or so, the Digital Policy Alliance, which I chair, has been working with the British Standards Institution to produce a publicly available specification—PAS 1296—exactly on this issue. Its whole point is to enable anonymised verification of the attribute of your age. People have said that you would have to give the information to the adult content site, the porn site, but you do not necessarily need to.

There are two stages: when the child, or the adult, first arrives at the site; and, if they are allowed into the site, what they then do. At the point when they come to the front page of the site, where they should be asked to prove their age, there should be an option—and this is the point about anonymity—that allows them to bounce off, with a token, to an age verifier. I have on my smartphone, for instance, one from Yoti. I can identify myself to Yoti; it knows about me and can send an encrypted token back to the website, which does not contain any identity information at all—purely the fact that I am over 18. If the regulator later needs to unravel the token because it appears that rules have been breached, it is possible to present the token and start unravelling it—but only with proper powers. The point is that a hacker cannot find out who presented that token. So it is possible now to do what is necessary.

That answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Maxton. The problem with an identity card is that it will identify you. If you gave your identity to one of these websites and it happened to be hacked, ​like Ashley Madison, and if you were a Cabinet Minister—or even like most of us here, actually—your career would probably be in ruins. So I think it is essential that people be permitted anonymity. That is why, I am afraid, I am not in favour of the identity card method. There are other similar ways of doing the same thing”

Hansard link

Vote on amendment YN25YN.

Labour abstained on this amendment.  “The amendment returns to the essential need to protect the identity of ​those who are over 18 and legitimately want to access pornographic sites without having their personal details compromised in the age verification process.”

Vote details

 

MPs – House of Commons

Alistair Carmichael (Lib Dem)

Raised the issue of data anonymising:

“Will the data therefore be held in an anonymised form that will not allow the people who have provided them to be identified, should the data be stolen? The best security in the world can still be breached.”

Hansard link

 

Kevin Brennan (Lab)

Introduced amendment (32) to place duties on the regulator to ensure adequate privacy standards were applied

Details of amendments

 

Louise Haigh (Lab)

Warned in the Bills final stages:
“We should proceed with extreme caution before creating any process that would result in the storing of data that could be leaked, hacked or commercialised when that would otherwise be completely private and legitimate. Concerns have been raised about whether the BBFC is appropriate to be the AV regulator, not least in relation to its conduct in lobbying Members of this House and the other. I am grateful that the Minister has listened to those concerns and that guidance will now be produced by the Secretary of State, meaning that there is proper accountability, and then issued to the regulator. I want to ensure that the report that the Secretary of State produces on the effectiveness of the regulation covers the regulator itself, so I would be grateful for clarification about that from the Minister.”

Hansard link

 

John Whittingdale (Con)

former Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport.  He was Secretary of State at the time the bill was introduced)

Warned of the dangers of blocking legal sites and the data protection concerns around Age Verification.

“I start by making it clear that I fully support the provisions in the Bill to require age verification to access pornographic sites. As I observed on Second Reading, it is just as well, since my name is on the front of the Bill.

I would like to introduce an element of caution. Unlike a lot of other material online that has been discussed—child pornography, racist material, hate speech, extremist encouragement and copyright breaches—we are talking here about legal content. Like it or not, the sites we are discussing are visited by millions and millions of people every day. They are some of the most popular sites on the entire internet.

As I have said, I support the idea of age verification to ensure that only those who can appropriately view this material do so, although there are concerns. I have yet to see exactly how age verification is going to work. We have seen examples of existing content access control systems through things such as credit cards, or mobile phones that have been verified as belonging to an adult. It is, in my view, asking a lot to ask people who want to access legal content to hand over their credit card numbers to pornographic website operators. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) was absolutely right to flag up the data protection concerns about that. I hope that Ofcom will look very carefully at how the CAC systems work.”

Hansard link