It appears that the porn block is about to return to the UK. The controversial censorship measure was originally instituted in 2017 and immediately encountered resistance. Multiple delays in its implementation led to the abandonment of the regulation in 2019. Now, several companies have taken the UK porn block to court.
Here is a closer look at porn censorship in the UK and how those who want to legally watch porn online can deal with it. An understanding of the specific provisions of the law may change how you perceive UK attitudes toward Internet regulation.
About the UK Porn Block
In 2017 the UK government sought to address access to porn websites by underage Internet users. Most UK residents were in agreement that adult websites should not be accessible to children. The Digital Economy Act sought to enact blocking for porn websites that did not use an age verification system.
Many software providers of age verification systems lined up to provide platforms. All was in place to get the ball rolling, but changes in leadership did what they have a tendency to do. New priorities emerged. The Digital Secretary of the UK, Nicky Morgan, created roadblocks and delays in October 2019 that ultimately led to the porn block being scrapped.
Why the Porn Block Initially Failed
There are probably many reasons why such a porn block in the UK was destined to fail. Among these would be the overall preference of UK residents for Internet freedom. Some may have thought that the law, as it was written, came much too close to opening doors of broader Internet censorship.
Other interests may have also been at play, including financial lobbying or other pressure from providers of adult web content. There is no way to specifically pinpoint the reason, but we can say that Nicky Morgan had concerns the porn block would not work. Specifically, Morgan was worried that VPN technology could be used to evade the ban.
Privacy concerns about the UK porn block were rampant. The age verification systems could have required individuals to provide scans of driver’s licenses, passports, or other identity documents. Some websites may have been ill-equipped to keep such data safe.
At the end of the day, lawmakers agreed with Morgan that there were too many questions and concerns to proceed with the porn ban. It did seem a bit extreme when one considers the stated goal of preventing viewing by young people who just “happened” to encounter adult content while web browsing.
Age-Verification and UK Porn Websites
There are some age verification systems that work very well. Others do not. No one can say for sure if the use of age verification software would have worked as a deterrent. There is also the question of how many adult websites would have bothered with the measure and simply accepted the block. The issue that has emerged is one of economics.
Several age verification software providers were anticipating the porn block. They stood to gain substantial revenues from it. When it did not happen these companies were understandably upset. They have reason to be. Few porn websites in the UK were actually taking measures comparable to those mandated by the UK porn ban.
This hints at a deeper, ethical issue. Do Internet porn providers have a responsibility to monitor the ages of individual accessing porn sites? Is it even possible to reliably do that?
Software Providers go to Court
Many of the questions seem destined to end up in the court system. Four providers of age-verification software have now asked for a judicial review at the High Court. The four companies are asking for a total of £3 million in damages.
The companies participating in the argument are VeriMe, AgeChecked LTD, AVSecure, and AV Yourself. According to Wired, the failure to enact the UK porn ban has cost the companies millions. Leaders at the various companies are claiming that the development of software that is now unused was based upon the anticipation of the porn ban.
Some of the companies that are involved in the legal proceedings have a simple solution. They are asking for the UK to implement the porn ban. These companies have promised to withdraw their claims if the ban can move forward.
How to Create Internet Freedom and Safety in the UK
Most responsible people in the UK seem to agree that it is important to keep porn away from young children. They would also admit that this task is harder today given the age at which children are becoming familiar with electronic devices. Many parents are unwilling or unable to monitor Internet use at all times. The windows of opportunity for young people to access porn are only going to open more.
Clearly, something needs to be done. The issue is what price UK residents are willing to pay. Some just cannot get past the idea that the UK porn ban is a privacy concern, and they may be right. There are plenty of examples of porn sites that have had their systems hacked, and exposed user data. In fact, one could even argue that porn websites are easy targets. Frequent ones, as well.
How could you protect yourself in the event the UK porn ban was enacted? Would there maybe be a safe way for adults to complete age-verification and access content that is their right to view? A VPN has always been a reliable solution for the privacy conscious.
With a VPN you can browse the Internet anonymously, change your IP address, and encrypt any data you share with strong security protocols. VPNs have been used for many years for a safer browsing experience.
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