8 Reasons why the UK’s Porn Block sucks

porn block

Expected from the 1st April this year (although rumours are it’s delayed again), the UK will start automatically blocking access to free porn sites, a move of unashamed online censorship which frankly, if you’ll excuse the pun, sucks.

After April Fool’s Day, no-one in the UK will be able to access this completely legal online content without first having to verify their age. The move was approved by Government with the passing of the Digital Economy Act in 2017, but after a series of farcical delays and implementation issues will finally come into effect next month.

However, the new restrictions are destined to be equally as farcical, causing problems for both internet users and the porn industry while at the same time being easier to bypass than a market town in Buckinghamshire.

In this article, we explain why the UK’s porn block is such a bad idea by highlighting just 8 of the main reasons it totally sucks.

1. Privacy invasive

The first, and arguably most concerning aspect of the new porn block is how it will intrude into people’s online privacy. The AgeID system will essentially require users of these porn sites to log in using their real name, real email address, and real credit card details.

This data will be held on a huge porn-users database along with details of what sites people are using. In other words, there will be a big database of everyone’s porn tastes.

Given the ease with which such databases are hacked these days, especially those in the public sector, this is taking a huge risk with people’s most private data and seems to us to be a recipe for a privacy nightmare.

2. Cost to the user

The main risk to users is the potential for their private information, including credit card details, to be accessed and abused. Not many people will want their online porn habits to be publicly available.

There are going to be ID cards which can be purchased in shops and used together with an app to verify your age without inputting this data. These will cost £4.99 for a single device or £8.99 for multiple devices but carries similar privacy risks.

And let’s not forget that this system is making you pay to access content that is perfectly legal in the UK and free to access in just about every other country in the world.

3. Cost to the industry

The new AgeID system has been developed by Mindgeek – the company behind popular free porn sites like Pornhub, YouPorn, RedTube and Brazzers. They have spent a huge amount of money to ensure that their sites are compliant with the new law and will be selling the system to their rivals, no doubt at considerable expense.

The potential costs for sites that aren’t signed up to the new system are even higher. They face a fine of as much as £250,000 and can expect access to their site to be permanently blocked by all major British ISPs.

In other words, if they don’t play the game, their site will be censored in the UK, one of the biggest porn using countries on earth.

4. Easily bypassed

The biggest flaw in the new law is how easily it can be bypassed. The Digital Economy seems to have been drafted with no consideration to VPNs whatsoever.

Because this new porn age restriction only applies in the UK, if users connect to a VPN server outside the UK they can access the same sites without any age restrictions.

Inevitably, some of the best VPNs like ExpressVPN and IPVanish see this as an opportunity to sign up more subscribers. They are not targeting underage users because paid VPNs generally require you to be 18 to sign up anyway. Those underage users are likely to turn to inferior and potentially dangerous free services.

But for people who don’t want to hand over personal data to access legal online content, a VPN is the obvious and easiest solution.

5. Security risk

Users of this new AgeID system could have all of their data stored in a giant online database. Such a database will obviously be a big target for online hackers and as such present a real security risk.

This is potentially a major problem. AgeID is being handled by a private company, Mindgeek, which is not cyber-security company. According to the AgeID website, the service will only protect personal data with a salted, one-way hash.

Their privacy policy states that this can be updated at any time without warning meaning the potential security risks to sensitive personal data are very real.

What happens if and when it does leak is anybody’s guess but given Mindgeek have essentially done the Government’s job on this issue, they will presumably be none-to-happy to receive a big fine when things go wrong.

6. Extortion waiting to happen

When the database does leak, which many commentators think is almost inevitably, the risks of porn users being subjected to extortion attempts seem very real.

Imagine if you were asked for money or your porn habits would be shared with your partner, family, friends, and employer. This is a very real risk with this new system, but one that no-one involved in it seems to be taking too seriously at all.

7. Technically incapable

The other big oversight of this new law is that it doesn’t target the place where most young people access pornographic content; social media.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are where most underage users will stumble across porn, rather than established porn sites.

But these social media sites are excluded from the new age verification requirements altogether. It’s rather like closing the side door but leaving the front door wide open and swinging on its hinges.

8. False sense of security

If the aim of this new legislation genuinely is to stop underage people accessing pornographic content, then there is also a big possibility that it could do more harm than good.

With these restrictions in place, it is quite likely that lazy or uneducated parents will assume the problem has been dealt with and stop taking steps themselves to prevent their kids looking at porn.

As we have seen, this new system is riddled with holes and is likely to stop no-one who wants to from accessing porn. By creating such complacency, it could actually make the problem a whole lot worse.

Summary

It was hard work keeping the list of problems with the new porn age verification system down to just eight. Meanwhile, we are struggling to find even one good argument in favour of it.

From major security and privacy risks to the likelihood of making the issue of underage access to porn a whole lot worse, the UK’s porn block really, really does suck!

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