The Internet Is About to Get Less Horny and That Sucks

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The UK government is going to remarkably puritanical lengths to make sure the youth can’t look at online fucking. On July 15, porn companies will be required to have age-verification systems to make sure that anyone consuming their content online is 18 or older. If they don’t implement these checks on their websites, they risk having their payment service providers withdrawn and being blocked by internet service providers.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a not-for-profit media content regulator, will be in charge of making sure websites comply with the new age-verification laws, the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, & Sport stated in a press release on Wednesday. The BBFC can only enforce commercial providers of online porn, and it stated that it will “primarily investigate sites with high volumes of traffic, but also carry out spot checks on less visited sites,” as well as sites reported to them by outside parties. Social media platforms and search engines don’t have to include these age-verification checks.

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It’s unclear exactly what these age-verification checks will look like on porn sites, and how the UK government and the BBFC will ensure that the third parties developing the technology are secure and effective. The government did provide some details in the press release on how it might work:

“Age-verification solutions range from low-tech options such as buying a card over the counter in a shop where the verification is face to face, to the use of traditional ID documents online. There are digital ID apps and people can use their mobile phone if the adult filters have been removed.”

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In other words, if you want to watch porn online in the UK, it’s not necessarily as simple as checking a box that states that you are 18 or over or inserting your birthdate. Based on the listed potential verification measures above, it may require you to have an in-person interaction, one that not-so-subtly divulges your interest in an intimate pastime, or to effectively add themselves to a national porn registry online.

The UK government wrote that age-verification technology that has been independently assessed and certified as passing security checks by the BBFC will have a green “AV” symbol. But not all third-party companies providing these checks will be reviewed unless they request an assessment. “However, it is a requirement of the standard for the AVC that only the minimum amount of personal data required to verify a user’s age shall be shared with third parties involved in the age-verification process and that information about the original requesting online pornographic service shall never be shared with third parties involved in the processing of verifying a user’s age,” the BBFC wrote.

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It’s certainly nice (and crucial) for the agencies responsible for overseeing these age-verification efforts to have privacy and security in mind when it comes to what are, inarguably, some of site users’ most private viewing habits. But it doesn’t overshadow the entire misguided purpose for these digital gatekeepers—that the government should police who gets to look at porn online and punish providers who don’t comply with their rules.

It serves to further sanitize the internet for many and to further fuel the war on porn. And even if teens and pre-teens are effectively shut out from porn sites online, it’s really not that hard to find other avenues for said content on the web—at least, the ones that haven’t yet banned sexually explicit content. The internet is becoming an increasingly less horny place and it’s a goddamn shame.

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Melanie Ehrenkranz

Reporter at Gizmodo

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