Could UK porn block law be delayed?

UK porn block delay

Media reports in the UK have suggested that the government’s controversial new porn blocking laws could be delayed after it was announced that two of the most popular browsers could be introducing new technology to get around the ban.

It emerged last week that the Mozilla Firefox browser was considering rolling out DNS encryption as standard for all users.

How DNS encryption could help stop the porn block

DNS (Domain Name System) encryption encodes the traditional DNS queries and responses that are sent over UDP or TCP (the two standard unencrypted internet protocols).

These are traditionally vulnerable to eavesdropping and spoofing and is what the new age verification system will be using to see when a UK internet user is accessing explicit content.

DNS encryption is by no means as effective at protecting a user’s internet connection as a VPN. When you connect to a premium VPN such as ExpressVPN or IPVanish everything you do online is encrypted and also redirected through an external server for heightened privacy protection.

Until now it had been thought that most people who wanted to evade the porn ban when it comes into force on 15th July would opt to use a VPN. It still remains the most effective way to do so. But if Firefox is planning to introduce DNS encryption as standard, porn users now have another choice.

Mozilla Firefox has been moving more and more towards being a privacy-conscious browser as it tries to compete is an increasingly challenging market. Users numbers have been in decline and, while the timing of this suggestion could just be a coincidence, it is something that is certainly likely to boost user numbers in the UK.

But they are apparently not the only browser considering rolling out DNS encryption. Google too has been contemplating adding it to their hugely popular (but far less privacy-friendly) Chrome browser.

Industry insiders have suggested that concerns have been raised with Google about the impact DNS encryption could have on other filters such as parental blocks, and there are some reports that they have backed away from the idea.

But these are still unconfirmed and in the meantime, Mozilla appears keen to push ahead with their plans for Firefox.

If they do go ahead as planned, their DNS-encrypted browser would make the UK’s new porn block laws completely unenforceable.

Media reports the porn laws could be delayed

According to the Daily Star, the UK government is now contemplating pushing back the rollout of the new laws until they can either find a way around this problem or a new government can make changes to the legislation to do away with the porn block altogether.

They quote Mark Hoe from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) as admitting, “The age verification measures… although those are not directly affected [by DNS encryption] it does effect enforcement of access to non-compliant websites.

“So, whereas we had previously envisaged that ISPs would be able to block access to non-compliant sites, [those] using DNS filtering techniques don’t provide a way around that,” he continued.

An official government spokesperson insisted the new law would come into force as planned and on time. However, they could not explain how they planned to enforce it if Mozilla does introduce DNS encryption.

It is worth noting that the Daily Star is not always the most reputable of publications. But they have broken a number of interesting tech stories of late and are beginning to build some reputation in that area at least.

Totally unenforceable

The question of enforcement is, of course, a powerful one. Whether Mozilla does or does not introduce DNS encryption, it is painfully simple to get around the new block simply by connecting to a VPN.

Then there is the fact that most young people (who this new law is supposed to be targeting) access explicit content on social media sites, which are not covered by the new porn block laws.

Even the body tasked with enforcing the new laws, which is (bizarrely) the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) admits that they won’t work.

What the government is left with is a fatally flawed policy that will not have the desired effect, is utterly unenforceable, is costing millions of pounds of taxpayers money to implement, is creating a privacy nightmare and a hackers paradise, and is going to leave politicians and civil servants with egg all over the face.

Quite how they will deal with the threat Mozilla is now posing to their catastrophic porn blocking plans is unclear. Presumably, they will try to put pressure on them in the same way they have with Google.

But Mozilla is already rolling out the technology for its US costumers and it seems unlikely they will keep it from their British ones for much longer. A launch to coincide with the introduction of the porn blocking laws could give them a valuable publicity boost.

But even if they don’t, anyone who doesn’t want to have to pay to prove their age in order to watch legal adult content online will just have to sign up for a VPN like ExpressVPN to easily get around the UK fatally flawed new porn block laws.

David Spencer

Author: David Spencer

David is VPNCompare's News Editor. Anything going on in the privacy world and he's got his eye on it. He's also interested in unblocking sports allowing him to watch his favourite football team wherever he is in the world.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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