Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

UK government invites comment on porn site age check plans

Public consultation launched on how best to enforce age restrictions on pornographic web content

The UK government has confirmed plans to enforce age checks on porn sites to block access by children under the age of 18, in line with a Conservative Party manifesto pledge.

The government has launched a public consultation on how best to enforce age restrictions on web content that would receive an 18 or R18 rating from the British Board of Film Classification.

The consultation invites comment from parents, teachers, charities, academics, internet service providers and websites providing adult content.

The age check plans are aimed at websites set up to make commercial profit, but commentators say that means children will still be able to access porn on free sites, blog sites and messaging sites.

It is also unclear how the government plans to impose age checks on porn sites that are based outside the UK.

However, one of the most popular free porn sites has signalled its intention to co-operate, the BBC reports.

“Pornhub will comply fully with any robust legislative and relevant local measures that emerge from this consultation,” a spokeswoman for the site is quoted as saying.

According to the spokeswoman, as a member of the Digital Policy Alliance, Pornhub has already started to work on a technical solution to enable compliance.

“It’s up to the porn companies to come to us and say: here’s what we can do,” news site Techradar quotes a government spokesperson as saying.

The government wants to find a verification system that goes beyond web users entering their date of birth, but checks using credit card details are likely to prove unpopular.

Read more about pornography filtering

Once the age check plans are finalised, the government plans to empower one or more regulators to enforce the new laws and impose civil sanctions if they are breached.

Before last year’s general election, the then culture secretary, Sajid Javid, said the appointed regulator would be empowered to force internet service providers to block sites that did not perform effective age checks and impose fines on non-compliant websites.

The proposed age check law will allow payment companies and other businesses that support porn providers to withdraw their backing if providers breach the new law.

“The internet is a tremendous resource for learning and creativity, but it is important to make sure that children are able to make the most of all it has to offer in a safe way,” said internet safety and security minister Joanna Shields.

“Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults.”

Prime minister David Cameron has been planning to block child access to pornographic content since 2013, when he said he would introduce legislation if necessary.

The public consultation will run until 12 April, but the government has not indicated when the planned age check law is likely to be enforced. ..........................................

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