Porn Regulators Powerless Against Horny British Teens

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On Wednesday, the UK government announced that starting July 15, porn providers online would be required to roll out age verification systems on their websites, only allowing those 18 and older to access their content. But one should not underestimate the will of the horny—porn, uh, finds a way, and adult content providers have already figured out a workaround that even the regulatory body admits are effective.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a not-for-profit media content regulator, will oversee and enforce the new UK age-verification laws. According to the Telegraph, the BBFC conceded that VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, will let internet users sidestep the age-verification process. VPNs let users spoof their physical location, meaning users can create a ghost account outside of the UK in order to bypass the nation’s age-verification checks. Addressing the possibility that kids will use VPNs to watch porn, the BBFC reportedly said that age-verification tech is “not a silver bullet.”

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Pornhub released its own VPN last year, called VPNhub, with the intention of giving its users the ability to view its content in a more secure and private way. “Another benefit of a VPN is that your virtual location can be modified, which can allow you to access geographically restricted content,” VPNhub stated in its FAQ. Strangely, MindGeek—which owns Pornhub as well as other mainstream porn sites—also created its own age-verification system, called AgeID, which porn sites like the ones it owns can use to force users to prove they are old enough to proceed. MindGeek also told the Telegraph that VPNhub won’t be available on app stores in the UK once the new laws are enforced if it doesn’t have an age verification.

“Determined teenagers will find ways to access pornography,” a BBFC spokesman told the Telegraph. “However, it will mean young children can no longer stumble across porn on commercial pornographic websites.”

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VPNhub is hardly the only VPN available if it does, in fact, prevent users under 18 from utilizing it. And aside from avoiding the public networks, experts reportedly predict there will be a black market for the over-the-counter cards and digital codes that people will be required to obtain to prove they are old enough to watch porn. And a study published last year by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute found that internet filters for sexual material online “are entirely ineffective” for their intended purpose.

What this all really comes down to is a game of wits between the prudish gatekeepers and horny kids, and whether the former can figure out how to execute a system that the latter can’t exploit. For those rooting for a less sanitized internet, you’ll surely be rooting for the kids.

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[The Telegraph]

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Melanie Ehrenkranz

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