Porn-block pushed back by clerical errors

Further delays to the child-protection measure, with the process mocked as an 'utter shambles'.

Monday, 24 June, 2019

More delays and apologies surround the controversial “porn-block” as it hits a major setback less than a month before going live.

The block was due to start on July 15, but is now being delayed “in the region of six months” in order to comply with European guidelines. Culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, stressed that the controversial policy would still be going forwards.

This last-minute setback was caused by the government’s failure to notify the European Commission of changes to statutory law in the porn-block legislation. Why this was never done, and why it has taken this long to correct, is unknown.

Labour MP, Cat Smith, called the process an “utter shambles” and renewed concerns about the viability of the block.

The Secretary of State says that an administrative error caused the failure to notify the European Commission of key details… This delay shows we were right to be concerned. Is he confident that such extremely sensitive personal data will be safe from leaks or hacks?

- Cat Smith MP

Foremost among the many issues surrounding the policy, is that people’s most private, personal data will be put at unnecessary risk. Hackers and scammers will be able to access users’ banking details, personal info, and browsing habits in convenient packages, stored away in the less savoury corners of the internet.

That’s to say nothing of the ease in bypassing the block entirely. Using any VPN server outside the UK will bypass all ISP-level blocks, and currently proposed systems can be fooled in minutes with fake details.

AgeChecked.com, who provide age-verification services to websites trying to get ahead of the block, had their block bypassed in “less than two minutes” by the Guardian back in April. With just a quick google search, a disposable e-mail address, and a randomly-generated credit card number, one of the sites protected by AgeChecked opened its doors.

AgeChecked’s own chief executive admitted that these actions were “within the capabilities of someone relatively young”, and suggested that they would review their system. Now they have plenty of time to do that.

The government was also forced to exempt many social media sites and image boards from the block, limiting the scope of the ban to strictly pornographic websites. This raises further questions about how much adult material would still be freely accessible to children, especially on sites that they are already likely to visit.

Most ISPs and mobile providers already allow parents to restrict the use of and access to websites, including blocks for VPN sites, which is already a far more effective system for protecting children.

The government has decided that, instead of parents, it is their responsibility to stop children from seeing porn. They just have to get around to actually doing it.

Samuel Newman author picture

By:

Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.

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