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UK Government consults on age-verification for online pornography

Posted by Sam Frances on Thursday, February 25th, 2016 at 15:08

The UK government is consulting on plans to require age-verification for access to pornographic websites.

The government’s proposal would require commercial providers of pornography to provide “robust age verification controls”. This would apply extra-territorially, to all providers “whose sites are available to UK consumers”.

This raises the obvious question of how such a law would be enforced against websites hosted and operated overseas. The government appears to favour an approach which focusses on advertisers, payment processers and other providers of “ancillary services”.

It is our intention that through introducing a new law and making clear a requirement to have age verification controls in place, the companies involved in ancillary or support services that underpin the profits of online pornography would be enabled to withdraw their services from websites that are in breach of the law. …Companies will be faced with the option either to comply, or to risk losing UK-based income streams.

The new law would be “underpinned by civil sanctions”, although the consultation does ask respondents to give their views on whether criminal sanctions would be appropriate. An independent regulator would be empowered to monitor compliance with the regime, notify non-compliant sites that they are in breach of the law, and “direct payment providers and ancillary services to withdraw services from non-compliant sites”.

For more information, see the consultation document.

The consultation will close at midday on Tuesday 12 April 2016.

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