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World first: Verify age or face block, UK tells porn sites

Age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. BBFC has created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC) to assess the data security standards of AV providers.

world Updated: Apr 17, 2019 18:14 IST
Porn websites,United Kingdom,Age verification
Failure to implement age-verification technology will lead to payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users, officials announced(AFP File)

The United Kingdom will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification; processes for online pornography when measures to prevent children from accessing such sites come into force on July 15.

The measures mean that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over.

Failure to implement age-verification technology will lead to payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users, officials announced on Wednesday. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws.

Margot James, minister in the department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport said, “the introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content.”

Responding to privacy concerns officials said, age-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity. BBFC has created a voluntary certification scheme, the Age-verification Certificate (AVC) to assess the data security standards of AV providers.

A number of rigorous age-verification options available under the new measures, ranging from the use of traditional ID documents online (for example, credit cards or passports) to mobile phones where the adult filters have been removed. Users can also use digital IDs or buy a card over the counter in a shop where the verification is face to face.

David Austin of BBFC said: “The introduction of age-verification to restrict access to commercial pornographic websites to adults is a ground breaking child protection measure. Age-verification will help prevent children from accessing pornographic content online and means the UK is leading the way in internet safety”.

The change in law follows last week’s publication of the Online Harms White Paper which set out responsibilities for tech companies to keep UK citizens safe online, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not.

First Published: Apr 17, 2019 18:14 IST