Administrative error delays UK’s age-verification for online pornography

Image: UK Minister Jeremy Wright says age-verification for online pornography delayed by six months. Photo: courtesy of UK Parliament/Wikipedia.org.

The UK government has officially confirmed that its plans to enforce an age-verification system for online pornography will not come into effect from 15 June 2019 and will be delayed for nearly six months, owing to an administrative oversight.

The delay is a result of the government failing to notify about its plans to the European Commission, in line with the technical standards and regulations directive, said the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright in the Parliament.

To be enforced under the Digital Economy Act 2017, the age-verification system for online pornography would need all adult internet users looking to access legal porn content to prove that they are over 18 by giving some kind of identification.

The delay for introducing the system is because the ministry in question will notify the guidance to the European Union and re-lay it in Parliament as soon as possible.

Wright, speaking on the subject in the Parliament, said: “As the House would expect, I want to understand how this occurred. I have therefore instructed my Department’s permanent secretary to conduct a thorough investigation. That investigation will have external elements to ensure that all necessary lessons are learned.

“Mechanisms will also be put in place to ensure that this cannot happen again. In the meantime, there is nothing to stop responsible providers of online pornography implementing age verification mechanisms on a voluntary basis, and I hope and expect that many will do so.”

In April 2019, the government announced that the UK will become the first country in the world to implement age-verification for online pornography when the measures come into effect in mid-July.

As per the government’s directive, commercial providers of online pornography will have to undertake robust age-verification checks on users to make sure that they are more than 18 years of age. The government said that its move is supported by 88% of UK parents having children aged 7-17, who agree that the measures will prevent the children from accessing pornography on the internet.

Websites that do not implement age-verification technology will have their payment services withdrawn or blocked for users in the UK, said the government. The task for ensuring compliance with the new laws was entrusted by the government to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

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