UK Government to enforce age verification on all porn sites

Public consultation set to run until April 12

The UK Government has confirmed plans to enforce age verification systems on porn sites.

A public consultation has been launched today to discuss the best way to enforce the age restriction, with a range of stakeholders including parents, teachers and internet service providers set to be part of the conversation.

Right now, the government is looking to put responsibility on the porn sites themselves, but a government spokesperson told techradar that having visitors simply enter their date of birth to prove they're 18 or older will not be enough.

"It's up to the porn companies to come to us and say here's what we can do," they said. "The obvious one is credit cards, but some people are reluctant to putting their credit card details [online]"

The spokesperson also confirmed that the government is targeting websites that are "purely set up to make commercial profit from pornography," meaning sites that feature pornographic content but aren't built solely for that purpose (some internet message boards, for example) likely won't fall under the same restrictions.

Penalties

The government announced it will give powers to one or more regulators to enforce the new laws when they become active, and the power to impose civil sanctions when they are breached.

It added that it will allow business that support porn providers, such as payment companies, to withdraw their support should the site breach the law.

"The internet is a tremendous resource for learning and creativity but it is important to make sure that children are able to make the most of all it has to offer in a safe way," said Internet Safety and Security Minister Baroness Shields. "Keeping children safe online is one of government's greatest priorities.

"Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults."

Last year, prime minister David Cameron said it was "absolutely vitally important that we enable parents to have that protection for their children from this material on the internet." He also mentioned an "opt-out" system, but didn't explain any further about what that might look like.

It's worth adding that many porn providers are based outside of the UK, although it seems all of them will be subject to the proposed new laws.

The public consultation will run until April 12. The government spokesperson was not able to comment on how long it might be until we see age verification brought into effect.