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UK has another crack at banning internet p*rn

by on06 December 2023

Forcing sites to confirm the age of users

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has laid out how porn sites could verify users' ages under the newly passed Online Safety Act.

Although the law gives sites the choice of how they keep out underage users, the regulator is publishing a list of measures they'll be able to use to comply.

These include having a bank or mobile network confirm that a user is at least 18 years old (with that user's consent) or asking a user to supply valid details for a credit card that's only available to people who are 18 and older. The regulator is consulting on these guidelines starting today and hopes to finalise its official guidance in roughly a year's time when hopefully there is a new government and people will have forgotten about the dumb idea.

Ofcom lists six age verification methods in today's draft guidelines. As well as turning to banks, mobile networks, and credit cards, other suggested measures include asking users to upload photo ID like a driver's license or passport, or for sites to use "facial age estimation" technology to analyse a person's face to determine that they've turned 18.

Asking site visitors to declare that they're adults won't be considered strict enough. Once the duties come into force, pornography sites can choose from Ofcom's approaches or implement their own age verification measures so long as they're deemed to hit the "highly effective" bar demanded by the Online Safety Act.

The regulator will work with larger sites directly and keep tabs on smaller sites by listening to complaints, monitoring media coverage, and working with frontline services. Noncompliance with the Online Safety Act can be punished with fines of up to [$22.7 million] or 10 per cent of global revenue (whichever is higher).

The guidelines being announced today will eventually apply to pornography sites both big and small, so long as the content has been "published or displayed on an online service by the provider of the service."

In other words, they're designed for professionally made pornography rather than the kinds of user-generated content found on sites like OnlyFans. That's a tricky distinction when the two kinds often sit together on the largest tube sites – or so we are told.

Ofcom will be opening a consultation on rules for user-generated content, search engines, and social media sites in the new year, again it is not making it clear how this miracle of technology will be created.

Last modified on 06 December 2023
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