40% of UK users will use VPN to avoid porn age checks

Online Porn

The UK Government’s controversial age verification check for pornographic content might kick in at the start of next month (although further delays are expected) but, as many experts had predicted, it is expected to have little effect.

The latest data to undermine the new law comes in a survey from the free porn site xHamster.

The xHamster web site is the third most popular porn site in the UK by visits and has surveyed 25,000 of their UK-based users. The results will make for sobering reading for the government officials behind the scheme.

What xHamster users said

Firstly, they found that just 53% of those surveyed were unaware that the age checks were about to be implemented.

This is a shockingly high number, especially as those responding to the survey are obviously regular users of online porn. It also tallies with previous surveys of the public as a whole which found more than three-quarters were unaware of the new law.

Only a third of those questioned by xHamster said they planned to comply with the new age check requirement, while 40% they weren’t sure, and a quarter confirmed they definitely wouldn’t be complying.

But the most interesting thing to emerge from this survey was in response to the question, how will you respond to the new restrictions. 40% of those who replied said they would use a VPN to spoof their location and make it appear as if they were outside the UK.

How a VPN will help you avoid the new age checks

Astonishingly, the new legislation which introduced the porn age checks completely overlooks the fact that users can quickly and easily get around the new age checks by using a VPN.

Instead of having their personal details, credit card information, and porn preferences loaded onto a giant and extremely vulnerable database, they can just sign up for a VPN and get around the checks altogether.

By signing up for a VPN such as ExpressVPN or IPVanish and connecting to a server outside the UK, British porn users can make it appear to the sites they visit that they are not based in the UK.

As these new checks only apply to UK-based internet users, they will therefore be allowed full access to the site without needing to pass any age verification process. It is a gaping loophole but one that the government still seem blissfully unaware of.

Of the remaining 60% of respondents, 18% said they would give up using internet porn altogether. The rest plan to go through the age check process but just 7.2% plan to pay for the anonymity offered by a kiosk card.

Others seem willing to risk their privacy by using things like a driving license, passport, or credit card, to verify their age, despite most people having serious privacy concerns.

What most people are worried about

xHamster found that privacy was the single biggest concern from their users.

]Almost 75% of those surveyed said privacy was the major concern about the new system for them, with 63% raising concerns about government intrusion.

The survey understandably didn’t touch on the fact that the new age checks will have no impact on the sites where most young people access explicit content.

This is known to be social media sites such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook rather than traditional porn sites like xHamster.

Alex Hawkins, the Vice President of xHamster, told the Daily Mirror, “We support efforts to limit access to adult material by under 18s, and we will be complying with the UK regulations.”

But he also summed up the huge problems with the new system.

“The data seems to show that a vast majority of porn users will abandon the UK regulations, either by leaving UK internet space, or by abandoning online content altogether. Such a ‘Sexit’ of nearly 60% of current adult content consumers has major implications.”

Hawkins is absolutely right. The new age checks are ill-thought through and will be ineffective in practice. They won’t target the sites most people use and those who want to get around it can do so easily using a VPN.

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