Government Scraps the Porn Block, Promises New Regulator Instead

By Tom Pritchard on at

Remember the so-called porn block the government promised as part of the updated Digital Economy Act? The one nobody really likes that's been delayed several times over because they can't figure out how to do it properly? Yeah, that's been scrapped for that very reason, in favour of s different approach.

The 'porn block' was first promised back in 2015, and was originally supposed to come into play in 2018, as part of a Conservative party pledge to protect children online. The idea is apparently to prevent children from accidentally stumbling on porn before they were ready for it (there is a lot of porn out there, after all), though making it harder for porn enthusiasts to enjoy the stuff is probably an added bonus for the morality police officers of the world. But now it's gone, with the announcement being made by Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan earlier today.

Now the government's plan is to have a new 'online harms' regulator create a 'duty of care' for online companies. Apparently this will also include social media companies, who were exempt from the porn blocks thanks to a loophole.

It's just not clear whether it will affect content other than porn, like nazi hate speech or mean comments about Boris Johnson and his stupid mop of hair.

Ms Morgan said:

"The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography.

The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime.

This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care."

Adding:

"Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm.

We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe.

We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users.

This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online."

The goal was to have all websites that hosted adult content locked behind an age verification gate, which various solutions put forward as to how to actually make sure it was adults getting through them. Those solutions included using phone numbers, passports, and even a 'porn card' that you could buy at the local newsagent and use to access adult content on a set number of devices.

Those ideas aren't going to be going away, according to Ms Morgan, but it's also not clear what role they're going to play. Knowing our government I doubt anyone does. [Politics Home]