Over 18? Online Porn Users Will Soon Have To Prove Age In U.K.

Britain is set to implement mandatory age checks on users of pornography websites, with people in the U.K. having to prove they are 18 before being able to access content.

By April 2018, websites that make pornographic content available to U.K. users for commercial purposes—even if they are not based in the U.K.—will be legally required to install age-verification controls, the BBC reported.  

The verification process may require customers to enter details from a credit card, as credit cards can be issued only to people over 18.

A regulator will enforce the new rules and have the power to ask internet service providers to block access to sites that flout the regulations.

The U.K.’s Digital Minister Matt Hancock, who will outline the plans in Parliament on Monday, said: “Now we are taking the next step to put in place the legal requirement for websites with adult content to ensure it is safely behind an age-verification control.

“All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the U.K. will have the most robust internet child-protection measures of any country in the world.”

But internet freedom advocates have expressed concerns about the plans and called instead for more focus on sex education that would help children cope better with the influence of online pornography.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said in a statement: “Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the U.K.'s porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison–style hacks.

“The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age-verification providers to protect the privacy of web users.

“There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification. We are concerned that the porn company MindGeek will become the Facebook of age verification, dominating the U.K. market. They would then decide what privacy risks or profiling take place for the vast majority of U.K. citizens.

“Age verification risks failure as it attempts to fix a social problem with technology. In their recent manifestos, all three main political parties called for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. Sex education would genuinely protect young people, as it would give them information and context.”

A 2016 study found that 28 percent of British children had found online pornography accidentally, while 19 percent had hunted it out deliberately.

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