Government drops age verification for porn websites

After multiple delays Government state that issue will be dealt with by the online harms regulator

Yesterday (16th October) the government announced that it would not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. Age verification of porn websites has had multiple delays since it was proposed, and had come under significant criticism but it’s launch was imminent.  The government has now said that its  objectives would be delivered through the forthcoming Online Harms White Paper.

EVAW understands that online harms is ongoing work, as the government have yet to respond to the consultation of the white paper. However, this consultation specifically excluded measures on underage access to porn due to the plans for age verification. This means there is a real gap where stakeholders in the VAWG sector have not been able to provide their valuable input and insight.

We, and others, have raised serious concerns about the framework they have proposed in the Online Harms white paper, as it is based on a model of self-regulation. We were clear in our response that there needed to be work done to ensure independence and that the regulator could meaningfully hold companies to account. We also stated the clear need for a VAWG analysis of online harms to be fundamental in any approach.

Whilst we had concerns about the operation of age verification, it was at least something where now there is nothing. As it stands it is very unclear how young people and individuals in general will be at reduced risk of online harm under any future regulatory regime.

 

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