Why UK’s war on porn is destined to fail

Man staring at computer with mouth wide open

In the wake of the Brexit, the public’s attention shifted from virtually all other political happenings to the controversial UK split from the EU. Among the overlooked legislature lies David Cameron’s latest attempt to sanction several several aspects of the UK’s digital economy. This time, the conservative government brought forward a draft, that if passed, will attempt to crack down on the online adult entertainment industry.

What is the Digital Economy Bill

The new legislature, dubbed the “Digital Economy Bill,” was presented to the UK parliament earlier last month. The draft proposes the legislation on age verification for all porn sites. Although the draft is more than 150 pages long, the idea is quite clear – all adult entertainment companies in the UK must figure out a way which guarantees that no persons under the age of 18 can gain access to their service, otherwise the company will be liable to a fine upwards of £200,000.

Now, you don’t have to be a tech genius to understand that there will always be a number of people knowledgeable enough to bypass said verification system. In fact, bypassing the block will likely be as simple as using a BitTorrent client, or a VPN – tools that are readily available to anyone that’s looking.

Ease of access

Speaking of ease of access, online pornography itself is incredibly abundant. According to an old write up by The Guardian, traffic to adult websites accounted for 8.5% of all “clicks” in the United Kingdom. This statistic didn’t account for any pornography downloaded or streamed via a torrent client, so the actual number is likely much higher.

In this day and age, pornography isn’t much more than a click away, and regardless of whether or not the Digital Economy Bill passes, underage persons seeking adult material will always have the means of accessing it.

Ernesto from TorrentFreak brought up another excellent point – if easy access to online pornography is blocked, adult content consumers will be pushed to other (often illegal) avenues of distribution. Meaning that if people can no longer consume content on their previously go-to websites, they’re likely to turn to torrents. Needless to say, this result will be the opposite of what the bill intends – considering that no torrent website has any adult verification system whatsoever.

Torrenting is just one of the countless ways of getting access to adult content, so even if (by some miracle) all torrent websites just disappear, consumers will still be left with many options. For example – a cheap VPN subscription will let anyone tunnel out of the UK – effectively circumventing the entire system in less than 2 minutes.

Potential Concerns

This ease of access (when it comes to browsing adult content) is making critics and civil liberty campaigners wary of the draft altogether – the more paranoid of which believe this bill to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The main concern of the naysayers is that the legislature, which on the surface aims to “protect the children,” is actually an attempt to get UK citizens comfortable with the idea of a more controlled Internet. It’s unclear if the government’s intentions are two-fold, but it’s entirely possible that the proposed legislature is the thin end of a regulated Internet wedge.

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