July 19, 2017 | Online
The British government wants you to know that it has not forgotten its plan to force porn sites (pay sites and
free sites) to start verifying the ages of their visitors. Those that fail to do so may be blocked by ISPs (Internet service providers) as per the recently passed Digital Economy Act (which was approved earlier this year).
This week, Digital Economy Minister Matt Hancock started the process of making the British Board of Film Classification the regulator for Internet content. He hopes to have online "protections" in place by April of 2018.
The move has been dismissed by free speech advocates and anti-censorship groups who think the government is going too far to limit what adults can and cannot view in the privacy of their own homes.
Mr. Hancock countered: "The Digital Economy Act is about building a strong, safe and connected economy. It will secure better support for consumers, better protection for children on the internet, and underpin a radical transformation of Government services."
This verification requirement will not be limited to British-based sites. Pay sites from other countries could see their access to any UK funds suspended, and free sites could be actively blocked by ISPs, if they don't actively attempt to stop minors from accessing adult material.
The executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, argued that any database of people's porn viewing habits could expose them to blackmail or embarrassment if said databases are hacked. He pointed to the 2015 Ashley Madison scandal, when users of the extra-marital dating website were exposed.
"Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK's porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks," he said. "The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users.
"There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification. We are concerned that the porn company MindGeek will become the Facebook of age verification, dominating the UK market. They would then decide what privacy risks or profiling take place for the vast majority of UK citizens."
Other questions remain, such as how porn sent through social media sites like Twitter and Tumblr will be controlled, and what form of age verification will be acceptable.
On April 1, 2018, the new law will start, limiting British men's access to the porn they love. On April 2, 2018, hacktivists will have found a way to make the age-verification requirement moot. Yep, more tax-payer money well spent.