New government plans will see pornography sites blocked if they don’t offer an age verification system.
UK regulator the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be given powers to make ISPs restrict access to pornography sites that do not feature “tough” age verification systems.
The new measure is part of an amendment to the government’s Digital Economy Bill.
The bill also includes measures such as the ability to withdraw payment services from sites that do not comply.
The move will apply to all websites in the UK and overseas, and complies with EU country of origin rules.
Speaking about the plan, Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:
“The Government is committed to keeping children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing.
“Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites refuse to comply, they should be blocked.”
So far, it is not known how sites will be branded as “pornography”, and whether there will be overspill into the world of adult & online dating – as happened with recent ISP filtering measures.
The government also said the BBFC will have “flexibility with a range of options and which one they use will depend on the circumstances of any given case.”
Voicing his concerns about the amendment, free speech campaigner Jerry Barnett told the Guardian: “Sometimes they say ‘porn’, by which they mean all sex, erotica, etc; but sometimes they use ‘adult content’, which is a far broader term, and they start going on about knife sales or self-harm sites, drug information sites.
“And if you look at the BBFC’s remit, what the BBFC believes it’s here to protect us from, porn is one of a number of categories.
“Porn, sex and erotica is absolutely the first target, but I can’t see in any way, shape or form that they won’t extend it because both the BBFC, for video, and Ofcom, for TV, have given themselves an incredibly broad censorship remit when it comes to child protection, and porn is just one of the categories.”
Read more about the bill here.