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Age verification to access online porn arriving in UK next month
March 07, 2019
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Next month, the United Kingdom will roll out new online restrictions in an attempt to protect children under the age of 18 from accessing pornography.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order for the Digital Economy Act in 2017. After two years of development, the program will be released on April 1.

To view online pornography, internet users will need to confirm their age by entering information from a driver’s license, credit card, or passport. If users do not wish to input their personal information, they may purchase a special ID card, available at thousands of retail shops across the nation for under £10.

Websites that fail to follow the age verification rules may face a nearly $330,000 fine or be blocked by the country’s internet service providers.

Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth and creator of the new 21-day porn detox STRIVE, voiced support for increased restrictions surrounding pornography.

“If it’s something as simple as age verification, I’m all for it,” he told CNA. “It just sounds like we are expecting the same thing of people online that we already expect of them offline.”

The most popular verification service is called AgeID and was built by MindGeek, which operates and owns several common pornographic sites.

Some critics of the new UK policy say it violates the privacy and safety of pornography users. Others argue that it does not go far enough to protect minors.

“It may make it harder for children to stumble across pornography, especially in the younger age range, but it will do nothing to stop determined teenagers,” said Dr. Victoria Nash, deputy director of the Oxford Internet Institute, according to BirminghamLive.

Dr. Joss Wright, senior research fellow at the institute, added that the new policy raises “privacy issues - you're requiring people to effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities. And there's serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites.”

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the age verification is a valuable first step, but that other measures need to be taken alongside it.

“The NSPCC is calling for social networks to be required by law to give under-18s safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world,” read a statement from the organization, according to BirminghamLive.

Fradd said the restrictions are enforcing age requirements that are already established offline. He said there is often confusion among parents about the seriousness of material viewed online compared to explicit material accessed in stores or movie theaters.

“Imagine a 17-year-old going to watch 50 Shades of [Grey] and being turned away and within five minutes looking at something a hundred times worse on their phone. So either allow children to watch 50 Shades of Grey and buy pornography from stores, or be consistent and require age verification,” he said.

Children’s access to online pornography has been identified as a significant problem: A 2016 study by internet security company Bitdefender found that about 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites is under age 10.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that works to fight pornography addiction, has highlighted numerous studies showing negative effects of pornography on underage users, including the creation of addictions, changes in sexual taste, and physical impact on the brain.

“Just more broadly, I would say pornography perverts a child’s understanding of human intimacy and sexual life, which is a very beautiful thing,” Fradd stressed.

“It’s as pernicious as sex is beautiful and human intimacy is worthwhile. Since those two things are beautiful and worthwhile, the corruption of it [in regards to] a child is all together something despicable and horrid.”