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UK Porn block for children has been scrapped.

child on computer

Saturday, 19 October, 2019

Pornblockgate

The government’s plan to launch a national age verification for online pornography has been scrapped this week. The controversial plan has been cancelled after years of blunders involving privacy issues and delays. From it’s announcement it was met with backlash from ISP’s, privacy campaigners and parental groups.

The main issue for the policy was it’s implementation. For the plan to work websites and ISP’s would have needed to cooperate completely. However they were under pressure from their own customers over concerns for privacy and security.

Some suggested tactics were for websites to ask users to upload scans of their passports or driving licences. This would leave users vulnerable to identity fraud were the websites to be breached.

Threats to children

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan announced that the policy would be abandoned to parliament earlier this week. It is understood that the government are instead to focus on measures to protect children online in general.

A recent white paper outlined the threats of explicit content, cyberbullying and potential radicalisation for children. The result of the paper is expected to pave the way for the founding of an internet regulatory body.

Unknown pleasures

Both porn and social media trigger psychological reactions like dopamine release (the brain’s ‘happy chemical’). It’s argued that this could cause addiction. Scientists are particularly concerned about the effects on children’s brains as they’re still developing.

Experts are sceptical of the ‘porn blocker’ tactic, so a potential move to more educational method is being welcomed. The policy had been likened to the ineffective sex education tactic of teaching abstinence only. While the NSPCC supported the blocker they admitted it would not be effective to stop persistent teenagers from accessing content. However the move to a regulator is still promising.

Good for some

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) will be relieved the policy is not moving forward. They were controversially tasked with overseeing the policy. The BBFC have little experience in the technical side of internet regulation, so the choice seemed strange to many.

Many businesses have invested time and money into preparation for the policy. Tech and security firms have been developing age verification products for the porn industry. It’s now hoped these tools can be used within other sectors like gambling.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan says the government remain open to using age verification tools in future:

The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm.

- Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Natalie Dunning author picture

By:

Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.

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