Malfunctioning Dalek and British Prime Minister Theresa May, fresh off of securing the support of the far-right Democratic Unionist Party, has reportedly set a timetable for her government’s plan to force all porn sites operating in the U.K. to check the ages of its users.
According to Ars Technica UK, by April 2018, May’s government plans to require all porn sites (including free ones) to check ID via credit card or another method like comparison to voter rolls to verify users are 18+ before showing them any content. The technical details of the plan—which is essentially an attempt to defeat the ingenuity of every horned-up teenager from Inverness to Southampton—are not yet apparent. But the British Board of Film Classifications would gain the power to fine sites which operate in defiance of the new regulations up to £250,000, forcibly disconnect them from U.K.-based financial services and advertisers or even ban them across the entire U.K.
“We have taken steps to implement the new age verification requirement for online pornography as part of our continuing work to make the Internet safer,” digital minister Matt Hancock said. “The new scheme is complex and will not be fully in place until April 2018, but today we are bringing into force powers to designate the regulator and powers to allow guidance to be issued.”
“All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world,” he added.
Regulators’ authority to enforce the ban is essentially discretionary, Ars Technica previously reported. For example, social media sites like Twitter or Reddit could be classified as “ancillary service providers” if users can obtain pornography on it, though parliamentary under-secretary for culture, media, and sports Lord Ashton said the government would seek a “consensual regime” with those sites.
While major sites like Pornhub will likely have little choice but to comply with the regulations, easy ways for anyone to get around the verification system could include using a VPN, trading pornography on file-sharing sites, or simply finding one of the innumerable smaller sites which slip under the BBFC’s radar. (Consider that somewhere between 4-15 percent of the entire internet is porn.)
There’s also the obvious risk of forcing millions of U.K. porn viewers to give their credit card information to an industry with notoriously bad cyber security, but that’s just the price Brits might have to pay for May’s proper internet.