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Porn Site Age Verification Laws in the UK Might Include Buying a “Porn Pass” In Person

By June 4, 2018 No Comments

Porn is more accessible, affordable, available, and anonymous than ever before. Couple that fact with how it’s also more extreme and violent than ever before in human history, and we’ve got multiple issues compounded together.

Near the end of last year, the UK parliament passed a law to prevent those under the age of 18 from accessing porn online. The Digital Economy Act 2017 requires a consumer’s age to be verified (something more sophisticated than the easily bypassable “18+ to enter” button anyone of any age can click) before they enter a porn site.

The policy was scheduled to go into effect in April, but is now expected to be “enforceable” by the end of 2018.

The burden of age verification largely lies on porn sites, as it is they who will be at risk of hefty fines or being blocked—in a similar way the government treats child porn—if they cannot confirm the age of their consumers.

Related: Stricter Age-Verification For Porn Sites Now Required In The UK

Ever since news broke about the law, there have been arguments about privacy, censorship, but also hope that kids will be better protected from extreme content. What is less known is how exactly the UK government plans on checking ages before a video starts or images are viewable.

As a recap, initially, the government said they would leave it up to the porn industry to create the age verification software. While there are other companies who work with this type of product, huge porn company Mindgeek was one of the first in the industry to jump on board. They created their own platform called AgeID, which allows customers to create a login and use third-party verification such as credit card information (although the platform is free to use), driver’s license, or passport.

Considering the size of Mindgeek and the numerous sites it owns, requiring all UK consumers to create an account and verify their age before browsing would mean one company would collect to a lot of consumer data (read: money & power).

Concerned independent porn makers fear anti-competitive behavior from the porn giant, and not all potential consumers are super comfortable with the idea of a porn conglomerate collecting the personal information of people who watch porn. Such a database is ripe to be hacked, and critics worry the results would be similar to the Ashley Madison breach of 2015.

So, it was back to the drawing board for reliable age verification techniques.

A new alternative

Last month, another idea was proposed: the local newsagent. Like buying a bus pass, you could go to your local newsstand, show your driver’s license or passport as proof of age, cough up £10 (USD $13), and away you go with a 16-digit code “porn pass.”

Funnily enough, the corner shop was proposed as a more “anonymous” alternative to creating a digital record. Quite a flip from a society who used to believe browsing the internet was always like “incognito” mode.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait to see if consumers are more concerned about their data, or saving face at their local 7/11.

Related: Report: Almost Half Of Kids Surveyed Say They Were First Exposed To Porn By Accident

We do hope such age restrictions will be effective, but we aren’t imagining for a moment that it is a complete fix to the massive issue of porn accessibility and its effects on any and all consumers. For example, teens are still taking and sharing explicit sexts where there is no age verification passcode required.

And while the world’s largest free tube porn site, Pornhub, appears to play along, they’ve also just released their own free VPN app. A virtual private network (VPN) is designed to confuse the location of your computer or smartphone, allowing you to sneak past geographic boundaries. Classy.

For example, a sixteen-year-old in Bristol could use this app to disguise their location and successfully jump onto Pornhub with no age verification, as if they were sitting in San Diego.

Why this matters

All eyes are on the UK in anticipation of any of these methods being successful in truly making porn only accessible to adult consumers. If these methods are successful across the pond, there’s a high chance the US will adopt something like it.

We are all for protecting young people from watching porn. We are a nonreligious and non-legislative organization, however, we support global efforts to protect children from being able to easily access hardcore internet pornography that can warp their understanding of what healthy sexuality is. (We think even the most pro-porn advocates would have to agree that young children being exposed to hardcore porn is not healthy.) Every day, we at Fight the New Drug hear from men and women who discovered pornography at a young age and have suffered its consequences, including addiction or compulsiondepressionisolation, and/or broken relationships. When we see efforts that aim to prevent young children from coming in contact with porn, we applaud those efforts in hopes that fewer people’s lives will be hindered and hurt by porn’s proven negative effects.

Related: One In 10 Visitors To Graphic Porn Sites Are Under 10 Years Old

Considering how developing minds can be especially susceptible to porn’s harmful effects, it only makes sense to hold porn companies to their “18+ Only” policies. And while it’s an important step in making porn less freely accessible to underage consumers, it’s not the ultimate answer to all problems and negative impacts connected to porn.

This is why we believe in leading the way with education and myth-busting what is incorrectly but commonly believed about porn. We fight to educate and raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn because everyone deserves to have a chance to grow up, free from harmful habits and capable of making their own decisions about sex and love apart from the toxic influence of porn.

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