The Major Change The UK Is Making To Porn Websites

Photo: Rockie Nolan
Porn websites are notoriously easy to access – all you need is an internet-enabled device and you're away, plunged into a world that's bound to give you a distorted view of sexual relationships, if you're not careful. Watching porn can be particularly damaging for children, with no real-life experiences to judge it against.
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So, many are praising new regulations which will force porn websites to prove their users are at least 18 years old before they're granted access. The plans, which will be announced by the government tomorrow, will require the websites to enable age verification controls by April 2018, reported the BBC.
Users could be asked to provide information from a credit card, which can't be legally issued to anyone under 18, in the same way that gambling websites do. It's thought the age-check requirement will apply to sites and online platforms that supply porn to UK residents "on a commercial basis".
Internet service providers will be required by the new regulator to block sites that don't comply with the rules and they could also face £250,000 fines. Companies that provide payment and other services to the sites could also be asked to retract their support, the BBC reported.
The regulatory body overseeing and enforcing the standards could be the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which is in charge of setting age ratings for films and previously set age limits for computer games before the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) took over.
The new rules will be laid out in the Digital Economy Act, which aims to build a "strong, safe and connected economy," according to digital minister Matt Hancock, the BBC reported. He said, "It will secure better support for consumers... and underpin a radical transformation of government services," as well as better protect children online.
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When the rules come into force, Hancock said we will still enjoy online freedom but that "the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world."
Children's charities have already welcomed the idea, saying it will do a great deal to make the internet safer for children. "Protecting children from exposure, including accidental exposure, to adult content is incredibly important, given the effect it can have on young people," said Will Gardner, chief executive of internet safety charity Childnet, adding that rules like age verification help to restrict access when implemented alongside parental controls and education, the Independent reported.
"It is essential to help parents and carers, as well as young people, be more aware of this risk and what they can do to prevent exposure and also to make sense of exposure if it happens," he added.
According to an NSPCC study conducted last year, 65% of 15-16-year-olds and 48% of 11-16-year-olds had seen porn online. Over a quarter (28%) had come across it while browsing and just under a fifth (19%) had actively searched for it.
Worryingly, given the sexist nature of most free porn online, more boys than girls (44% compared to 29%) also claimed that what they'd seen had given them ideas about the sexual acts they wanted to try out. The NSPCC concluded that porn can damage children's development, relationships and decision-making. Hopefully the new rules will go some way towards reversing this trend.
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