Porn Block UK: Government finally provides relief

The Porn Block UK saga has been full of ups and downs but it seems that we may have finally reached a climax. Digital secretary Nicky Morgan has confirmed the plans “won’t be commencing.”

The UK porn block seemed like it was doomed from the beginning – with many critics coming out against the reasons behind the block as well as the difficulties relating to how it would be implemented.

The Porn Block appears to be dead and buried but we’ve collated all the information about what it was and all the controversies relating to how it could’ve been implemented.

What is the UK porn block?

The UK porn block was an initiative put forward by the UK government. The UK porn block aimed to prevent children under 18 from accessing pornographic material online.

Once in place, the porn block would have required all porn website users to verify their age before being allowed to access the site. If they are under 18 access would – of course – be denied.

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When is the UK porn block happening?

After years of uncertainty, digital secretary Nicky Morgan confirmed in a written statement to Parliament (via Sky News) that the UK porn block “would not be commencing.”

Nicky Morgan says that the government will instead focus on the new Online Harms regulation: “The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm.”

How will the UK porn block work?

For the UK porn block to work, the UK government decided an age verification tool on websites that provide porn commercially was necessary.

If the porn block was implemented, you would have had to prove you’re over 18 to access an online porn website. Websites like PornHub, YouPorn, RedTube and Brazzers would have used a tool called AgeID to verify your age.

To get past Age ID – which was built by PornHub owner MindGeek – you’ll need to prove you are at least 18 years old. Once your age is verified, you can sign in to AgeID. MindGeek says you will be able to tell the tool to log you in automatically on any AgeID using websites in the future for added convenience.

AgeID is only the tool being created by MindGeek. Different tools may have been created by other online porn providers.

The age-verification check would have been done by a third-party and could’ve been passed in two ways. One option, you would have been able to upload a scan of an age-verification document – like a passport or driving license.

Or, you could have also trudged down to a store or newsagents and purchase a “porn pass” – a bit like in the olden days when you used to go and top-up your mobile phone balance, except slightly more embarrassing. The “porn pass” would have cost £4.99 and would have required you to verify your age with the cashier. 

The UK porn block was being regulated by the BBFC – the movie classification people – for some reason. The BBFC would have checked to see if porn sites are implementing an age verification system.

Will the UK porn block work?

The UK porn block – largely – seemed like a waste of time. But – not only was it a waste of time – it appeared to be opening up adults to a whole range of privacy risks.

Before we get to the big reason, the first folly of the UK porn block is that it would have only required age verification on websites which make money from porn-viewing. The porn block – therefore – would have excluded popular social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Social media sites are surely the most likely location where underage users may stumble upon explicit images – the entire goal of the porn block.

Now we come to the UK porn block’s kryptonite – VPNs. Some users who prefer to browse the US version of Netflix or just like beefing up their security will be familiar with VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

VPNs allow you to trick websites into thinking you are from another country. The UK porn block is just that… a UK porn block – meaning the restrictions wouldn’t have been in place in other countries, presumably because they weren’t silly enough to implement this measure.

Anyone can use a VPN – no, it isn’t illegal – and many are free. However, the better ones do often require a fee.

Related: Best VPN 2019

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Is the UK porn block risking my privacy and data?

If the UK porn block had come into force, the UK government would have been asking tens of millions of porn users to upload scans of important documents to the web.

The Open Rights Group called the UK porn block “a privacy timebomb”.

Why is the UK porn block happening?

So, the UK porn block seemed like a pretty silly idea, right? But, maybe the UK government has good reason for wanting to prevent minors from accessing pornographic material? Wrong.

The idea of a UK porn block (officially referred to as The Digital Economy Act) emerged under David Cameron’s government in the wake of a study by the NSPCC.

The study claimed more than 50% of UK children and teenagers accidentally end up seeing porn online. This statistic whipped the UK government into a frenzy and brought us to where we are today – less risky and possibly more effective solutions like improved sex education in schools was seemingly not considered worthy.

However, the study isn’t seen as particularly rock solid. The study was based upon data from a company called OnePoll. OnePoll refers to itself as a “creative market research” company and pays people to complete online questionnaires.

OnePoll surveys have produced earth-shattering conclusions like “Fifty per cent of British adults think Mount Everest is in the UK” and “German men are the world’s worst lovers”.

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