UK porn age verification scheme to go live on 15th July

UK Porn age verification

The UK Government has confirmed that their controversial and ill-thought through porn age verification scheme will go live on 15th July this year.

The announcement comes as even the body tasked with overseeing the new arrangements admits that it will not stop young people from accessing explicit content online.

A deeply flawed censorship scheme

As we have reported before, the new age verification system was passed into law as an under-scrutinised part of the Digital Economy Act 2016.

It was originally intended to come into effect on April 1st this year, but the development has been marred by delays and errors as government has wrestled with how best to regulate and censor huge sections of the internet.

The solution that they have reached is far from satisfactory. It involves an age verification which has been developed by the porn industry itself. The system requires users to input significant amounts of personal data and their credit card details in order to access completely legal pornographic content online.

This information will be stored on a giant database and anybody with the slightest knowledge of online security issues will know how insecure these are. The result is a huge, vulnerable database containing private data and details about people porn habits; a recipe for disaster.

The government claims to have taken these privacy concerns into account in the development of the new system.

Minister for Digital, Margot James, said in a statement announcing the new date that, “We’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”

But despite the claims, there has no tangible change to the new regime and all of the privacy concerns which were raised two years ago remain.

One of the biggest concerns about the new regime is the risk of widespread online censorship as a result. In the UK, from July 15th, it will be illegal for porn sites to be available without an age verification system in place.

Even the BBFC says it won’t work

The body tasked with enforcing the new law will have the power to block access to any sites which refuse to comply. Given that the UK is just one market among many for these sites, it is likely that a significant number will not bother with the hassle and cost of adding age checks.

This means that the UK government is likely to end up censoring vast numbers of perfectly legal websites.

Enforcement powers for the new law lies, bizarrely, with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), an organisation with zero prior experience of online censorship.

The BBFC has admitted previously that it didn’t believe the new age verification system would work. They have reconfirmed this view this week, admitting the new law is not a silver bullet and won’t stop determined British youngsters from accessing explicit content online.

This is a truly damning assessment from the body supposed to be upholding the new law and undermines the farcical nature of this arbitrary, damaging, and completely unenforceable new system.

How to use a VPN to get around the new age verification scheme

The truth is that the overwhelming majority of young people access pornographic content on social media sites like Twitter and Snapchat which are excluded from the new regime.

Those of a legal age that don’t can easily use VPNs such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish to get around the new age verification system. All they have to do is connect their VPN to a server outside the UK and all explicit content will be accessible without the need for an age verification check.

The gaping VPN-shaped hole in the new regime has been completely overlooked by both government and the BBFC who continue to bury their heads in the sand on this more glaring of oversights.

The people who will really suffer as a result of the new age verification regime are adult online porn users who are doing absolutely nothing wrong but will have little choice but to put their personal data at risk in order to continue to enjoy watching porn online. Many are currently completely unaware of the new regime.

They can also use VPNs of course, but the reality is that a higher proportion of this demographic are unaware of VPNs and the ease with which they can be used to get around the new porn blocks.

From 15th July, this will be their only option, so it is to be hoped that articles such as this one will be circulated far and wide to tell as many people as possible that there is an alternative to allow them to continue viewing porn online without having to put their online privacy at risk.

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