UK ends quest to create online porn block

While ending its plans for overt age verification, the UK government said it remains committed to "protecting children online".

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The United Kingdom government has backed away from plans to introduce age verification to access adult consent that were first flagged in April.

The rules would have forced sites that monetise pornography to introduce proof of age checks -- such as the submission of credit card details, or scanned copies of ID cards and passports -- or risk having payment services withdrawn or blocked for UK users.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Nicky Morgan delivered the change in response to a written question.

"The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography," Morgan wrote.

"The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms."

Morgan added that adult content was "too easily accessed online" and further action would be needed to protect children online.

"We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users," she said.

"This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online."

Open Rights Group welcomed the change, but said it would "remain vigilant to ensure that new proposals are not just as bad, or worse".

"Age verification for porn as currently legislated would cause huge privacy problems if it went ahead," executive director of Open Rights Group Jim Killock said.

"We are glad the government has stepped back from creating a privacy disaster, that would lead to blackmail scams and individuals being outed for the sexual preferences."

In June, the laws were delayed and set to be shelved, after a failure to comply with EU standards -- an ironic outcome given the country has torn itself apart over how to leave Europe.

Last month, Australia decided it would, not for the first time, follow in the steps of the UK, and look into its own age verification regime for porn and gambling.

Australia's House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs is looking into "the potential benefits of further online age verification requirements, including to protect children from potential harm, and business and non-government organisations from reputation, operational and legal risks", according to the committee's terms of reference.

Australia's contentious encryption laws were based on the UK's snoopers' charter.

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