Wankers Rejoice! UK Indefinitely Delays Porn Block

By Tom McKay on at

The government’s plan to implement a mandatory, nationwide age verification system for pornographic websites attracted ridicule from technical experts who pointed out it could easily be evaded by anyone with minimal technical know-how, but would likely require sweeping tracking of porn viewers’ identities and web histories. Now, according to Sky News, sources say the project is “indefinitely delayed” (after being previously delayed twice) and will not in fact be rolling out next month on 15th July as planned.

According to Sky, a government spokesperson did not deny the indefinite delay and confirmed that culture minister Jeremy Wright would deliver a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday morning. Apparently, the problems are not technical. They’re legal, Sky wrote: “When laying the BBFC’s guidance in Parliament in late 2018, [the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] failed to notify the European Commission as it is required to, undermining the legal basis of age verification.” Per the Guardian, that means the issue of implementation could be left up to the next prime minister, who could be frontrunner Boris Johnson.

Under the proposed regulations, each porn site would have been required to implement their own age-verification system – which as Wired UK noted, would create a bewildering array of options and potentially require porn viewers to hand over sensitive personal information to multiple services to get past age gates. The delay does not bode well for these providers, who were planning on making “the UK a hub for global age-verification systems,” the Guardian wrote:

The delay is also damaging to many British age-verification businesses who had invested substantial sums of money in developing systems to provide the tools required to check internet user’s identities. They were relying on the launch going well in order to sell their product around the world and make the UK a hub for global age-verification systems, with many backed by small investors who could lose out in the event of a lengthy delay.

As the New York Times noted, however, one of the frontrunners to implement the system across the most websites was AgeID – which sought to be a sort of all-purpose login portal for porn and is owned by MindGeek, the operator of some of the world’s largest adult sites including Pornhub, Redtube, and YouPorn. That raised numerous questions, including whether the UK government was effectively handing over massive power to a titan often accused of exploitative business practices, including widespread piracy on its tube-style sites, aggressive promotion of racist and misogynistic content, and stripping creators of revenue.

“In the name of child protection, the government has given a massive leg up to an enormous pornography company to have a monopoly on age verification in the UK,” Jim Killock, executive director of digital freedom advocacy organisation Open Rights Group, told the Times. “That’s quite a surprising outcome.”

A YouGov survey earlier this year found that 76 per cent of Britons were unaware such a regulation was on the way, and though about two-thirds say they supported it after being filled in, only 34 per cent believed it would be effective. The British Board of Film Classification, the regulatory agency assigned responsibility for implementing the plan, conceded as much earlier this year by admitting easy-to-use virtual private networks (VPNs) would render the system useless.

The government opted to impose the restrictions solely on commercial porn sites, exempting social media and discussion platforms like Twitter, Imgur, and Reddit. While there was some talk of subjecting those sites to increased scrutiny, an implementation delay would push that timetable back.

As the Guardian noted, the delay also “raises questions as to how a similar age-verification system for all mainstream websites – as proposed by the information commissioner’s office – could be implemented.” [Sky News]