British VPN searches soar 55% as government porn ban date confirmed

UK Porn block surge

Yesterday, we reported on how the UK Government has confirmed that its widely derided online porn age verification scheme will come into effect on 15th July.

The response to this confirmation has been predictable. The millions of people who access online porn perfectly legally are enraged and have immediately started searching for a way around the age verification checks.

VPN searches triple in the UK

The best way to avoid the government’s plans is by using a VPN.

Users of VPNs like ExpressVPN and IPVanish can simply connect to a server outside the UK, even as close as France, Ireland, or Denmark, and continue to access all of their favourite porn sites without having to pass age verification checks and hand over sensitive private information first.

This is no secret and yesterday, in the hours after the government confirmed the date the new scheme will begin, searches for VPNs on Google in the UK tripled. This means three times as many people as usual are searching for VPNs in the UK.

As our editor, Christopher Seward told the Independent in the UK, “We saw a 55 per cent increase in UK visitors alone compared to the same period the previous day.”

As the start date for the new regime draws closer, we can expect this number to rise even further and the number of VPN users in the UK is likely to go through the roof.

The UK Government has completely failed to consider the fact that VPNs can be easily used to get around blocks such as these.

Even the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) which has, for some reason, been tasked with enforcing the new porn ban admits it is powerless to stop VPN users getting around the new restrictions.

The folly of age verification

This glaring oversight is clearly going to cost them big time.

In the past few years, the UK Government has created one of the most comprehensive surveillance states in the free world. Indeed, many commentators have suggested that it is already getting close to what authoritarian regimes in countries like Communist China, Russia, and Iran have in place.

They are allowed to collect internet user data from every single UK citizen, access private computers and communication programmes without a warrant, and retain huge swathes of private data on massive centralised databases.

However, VPNs protect users from this surveillance too by encrypting all of their data to stop both government spies and Internet Service Providers from being able to see it.

The porn ban is the latest ‘nanny-state’ scheme to try and micro-manage what people can and can’t do online. It is far from the final piece in the puzzle too.

Only this week, the Information Commissioner’s Office announced plans to widen the age verification scheme to take in all sorts of different websites including shops, online news, and holiday sites.

That announcement has largely gone under the radar but it is likely to make huge swathes of the internet unavailable to those either willing to hand over private data to prove their age or those who use a VPN.

Such policies are driving people onto VPNs. Those that do sign up can benefit from the added security and privacy that a VPN provides. But for the Government, they are effectively shooting themselves in the foot by forcing people to put themselves out of range of surveillance programmes.

So, while the UK government rhetoric continues to be that policies like these are designed to make people saver online, they are not having that effect at all. They are driving more people to protect their data online, while those who do have criminal and terrorist intentions are going further into the dark web to evade detection.

Porn sites helping users evade regime too

The effectiveness of age verification is expected to be extremely limited too. Those that don’t choose to sign up for a VPN will still be able to access explicit content on social media sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Imgur, and indeed any website where less than a third of the content is of an adult nature.

Porn sites are also well aware of the failings of the new regime and they are looking to have the best of both worlds.

Mindgeek, the company behind many of the world’s most popular online porn sites has been the driving force behind the new age verification technology and stands to make a considerable profit from it.

However, they have also released their own free VPN service, VPNHub, which they hope more porn users will opt to use.

We reviewed VPNHub this year and found it severely lacking in comparison to the most secure and private VPNs available such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish. It also suffered from many of the basic flaws that all free VPNs have.

But its very existence proves yet another of the basic problems the new age verification system has. By regulating to stop people accessing legal online content, the UK Government is handing power and profit to companies like Mindgeek to control when and how British people can access online content.

And that is a situation no one, who isn’t on the Mindgeek payroll, can be in favour of.

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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