The UK government will soon have the power to block any website that doesn’t properly verify your age with a piece of private, personally identifiable information such as your social media account, credit card number, or name and address. While the law, the Digital Economy Bill, is slated towards stopping underage eyes from viewing pornographic material, onlookers fear that age verification will be an excuse for the government to block any sites they have an issue with. Many sites have certain sections that are a mecca for pornographic content while the site itself might not be “adult content.” A prime example of this is none other than Reddit. Under the current Digital Economy Bill, it is possible that Reddit could be blocked by British ISPs if they don’t properly wall off their NSFW subreddits.
Such decisions would officially fall to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), who will be able to decide what counts as adult content, a huge amount of responsibility when it comes to internet censorship in the UK. The keyword here is “adult content,” which covers things such as knives, drugs, and whatnot that aren’t pornographic content. If you have any doubt that the UK porn blocking law, as it has been billed, will be used to block nothing more than porn, please block that thought. Under the Digital Economy Bill, the UK government will be able to issue fines to any ISP or mobile network provider that doesn’t comply with the blocks. Additionally, the UK has also mentioned cutting off payment processing for foreign, noncompliant adult content websites as a potential solution.
Some pornography companies plan to abide by the Digital Economy Bill
Given the planned extremes that the UK is going to go to, it is no surprise that some porn sites have decided to comply. MindGeek, the international conglomerate behind most of the world’s most popular pornography sites, such as Pornhub and Youporn, has confirmed that they will be complying with the Digital Economy Bill. The government has additionally claimed that the top 50 porn sites are also willing to fall into line. This means that age verification on porn sites will be a real thing soon if you connect from a UK based IP address. There hasn’t been any word from Reddit yet on whether or not they will apply UK-compliant age verification on NSFW subreddits. Unless they adopt these measures, effectively helping the UK create a database of UK porn users, Reddit could be named in a block request from the UK government to ISPs.
What happened the last time the UK tried to block porn websites?
Two years ago, when ISPs tried to do a porn block by way of filtering, they found that many innocent sites ended up being caught in the crossfire. In their first attempt, the government found that some of their own sites, specifically Claire Perry’s own website, were getting caught in the firewall, and decided to end the experiment. The EU also ruled that the UK’s porn blocking rules were against net neutrality. The new iteration of the UK porn blocks will be opt-out instead of opt-in. This means that the government is also planning to collect a list of porn viewers. Lists of British porn users are about to be compiled, shared with the government, and available for hackers to target. Combine that with the Investigatory Powers Act’s storage of your internet history and call history, and 1984 doesn’t quite seem like the past anymore. The UK is pushing forward with this despite neighboring EU net neutrality rules that forbid this type of network level blocking as illegal.
Opt-out porn blocks are ridiculous; Age verification like this is privacy invading
“While this law may prevent young children from accidentally viewing porn, there are many ways that tech savvy teenagers could get round it—for example by using VPNs, proxy sites, portable media or accessing porn through social media sites.”
“There are no privacy obligations in the draft bill, yet it will be effectively compulsory to use these technologies. [The bill] needs strong privacy regulation to avoid potential disaster.”