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UK Takes Big Step to Shield Children From Online Porn

03-06-2019

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom have added an age restriction to internet porn use. 

Beginning April 1, the UK will require websites that offer free explicit content to obtain identification from their users proving they are over the age of 18.

Metro.co.uk  reports users must prove their age using a credit card, passport, driver's license, or other means of identification. Users can also use an independent online verification system called AgeID.

"When a user first visits a site protected by AgeID, a landing page will appear with a prompt for the user to verify their age before they can access the site. Each website will create their own non-pornographic landing page for this purpose," AgeID spokesperson James Clark told Metro. 

"It is a one-time verification, with a simple single sign-on for future access. If a user verifies on one AgeID protected site, they will not need to perform this verification again on any other site carrying AgeID," he explained.

If online porn distributors do not comply with the new law, they could face a $330,000 fine and be blocked by all UK internet service providers. 

The new restrictions were approved as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, however, after several delays, they are finally being implemented this year. 

According to the BBC, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) claims nearly two-thirds of 15-to-16-year-olds have viewed online pornography.

Margot James, the UK's government minister for online safety says, "Too many young people and children are coming across porn by accident and that is completely unacceptable."

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Proponents of the law hope this will be a positive first step towards keeping porn out of the reach of children.

WIRED magazine editor Rowland Manthorpe argues its "one of the worst ideas ever" because it will encourage illegal behavior online and opens the door for the government to censor any online content politicians dislike. 

"When you hire a bouncer to crack down on kids drinking in the local pub, you don't get a sudden rise in homework. You get a surge in fake IDs and drinking in the park. The porn block will do the same thing online, pushing kids towards streaming sites stuffed with malware, creepy subreddits, and places on the dark web that sell credit cards details," he says.

Others also raise the issue of pornography on social media. The ban does not apply to pornographic users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

"It's not watertight. We do have issues with some social media platforms," James says. 

"We're taking the view that if the main purpose of a social media platform is completely other than pornographic, for the time being we are not going to subject them to the same requirements."

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