UK Government knows its latest online porn blocker is a terrible idea

The UK Government has acknowledged plans for a new Age Verification System to control access to porn and adult content online is riddled with risks.

The latest part of the scheme to keep adult content away from the eyes of children could force content providers to make website viewers prove they’re old enough to watch said smut.

However, an impact assessment commissioned by amusingly-named Digital Minister Matt Hancock, outlines the potential problems with such a scheme.

Related: From the Archives – Why the porn filter won’t work

The government, it seems, appears ready to push on anyway, at a cost to the taxpayer of £4.5 million.

The risks identified are as follows (via ISPreview):

• Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online;

• Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved;

• The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator;

• Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

• The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data;

• The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%).

• Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

Objections to the plans seem too be grounded in common sense. Indeed, the vast majority of UK households are already able to rely on parental controls through their ISP.

And, handing over personally identifying information to adult websites? What could possibly go wrong?

Do you think the current opt-in/opt-out ISP tools are enough to protect younger viewers from adult content? Is the government over-reaching again? Drop us a line @TrustedReviews on Twitter.