UK to introduce porn age-checks on July 15

Adult websites will have to implement age-checks for UK visitors by July 15 or risk getting banned by UK ISPs.

UK age check

Websites showing adult content will have to verify that UK visitors are over 18 or face being blocked in the UK, the British government announced today.

The new mandatory age-checks for UK users will come into effect on July 15, later this year, making the UK the first country in the world where such age-checks will become mandatory.

If websites fail to implement adequate age-checks for UK visitors, they "face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users," the British government said today in a press release.

Not all websites showing adult content are impacted by the UK government's new rule, though. Sites that show pornographic content for artistic purpose and do not monetize their content (sell artwork or show ads on their sites) are exempt. So are image or video hosting portals where the pornographic content makes less than a third of the site's total content. This automatically exempts sites like Reddit, Imgur, Gfycat, and others, from showing age-checks to UK users.

The British government said its new legislation is "backed by 88% of UK parents with children aged 7-17."

BBFC in charge of enforcing the age-checks

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for enforcing the new age-checks by notifying and blocking non-compliant websites.

The BBFC will check if pornographic websites are showing age-checks for UK visitors and if the age-check mechanism meets a certain level of quality of implementation, user privacy, and compliance with UK laws.

"[A]ge-verification arrangements should only be concerned with verifying age, not identity," the government said today. "Certified age-verification solutions which offer these robust data protection conditions will be certified following an independent assessment and will carry the BBFC's new green 'AV' symbol."

A 24-page document describing several methods of implementing age-checks has been released last October. There will be no "enter birthday" forms because anyone can bypass such systems by entering any incorrect date they wish. Instead, adult websites are free to choose from the various available options, such as using credit cards, passports, driving licences, or mobile phone age-verification technologies to verify UK visitors' ages.

Additional information for website owners and UK users has been made available on the ageverificationregulator.com portal.

The UK has been blocking sites for almost a decade

Since 2011, the UK has been using ISP-level content filters to block websites it deemed harmful to children or which were infringing on UK businesses' copyrights.

A joint-report published today by digital rights advocates Open Rights Group (ORG) and Top10VPN VPN review portal found that the UK was already blocking 760,000 websites using these ISP content filters already, with a high degree of inaccuracy, sometimes impacting benign websites belonging to UK charities, schools, and social support websites.

Many privacy advocates have pointed out that the age-checks are somewhat useless, as they can easily be bypassed by using a VPN or a Tor connection.

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