Responding to a recent application to the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission for website blocking to prevent copyright infringement, David Kaye the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has warned that:
“Website blocking is an extreme measure that should only be imposed when an independent and impartial judicial authority or adjudicatory body has determined that it is the least restrictive means available to end individual acts of copyright infringement.”
Website blocking is one tool that would be available to the BBFC. Whilst Age Verification is of course different from preventing piracy some of the warnings he makes will have relevance. In particular he warns that
“Due process requires States to “provide full details regarding the necessity and justification for blocking a particular website,” and seek content restriction pursuant to an order of “a competent judicial authority or a body which is independent of any political, commercial, or other unwarranted influences to ensure that blocking is not used as a means of censorship.”
“Even if a website/application is not ultimately blocked, the mere threat of blocking may have a significant and disproportionate chilling effect on its operation. Rather than risk the shutdown of their website/application, the owner/operator is more likely to err on the side of caution and take down material that may be perfectly legitimate or lawful.”
“These procedures would establish extremely short time frames [15 days initially] for responding to an application and gathering relevant evidence, potentially in violation of minimum due process standards.”
Whilst not binding this will be information that the BBFC and Government have to take into account in drawing up their guidance as to how they will operate Age Verification.