Consultation Survey Over U.K. Age Checks Concludes Next Week

Apr 6, 2016 12:08 PM PST

LONDON — The U.K. government, which in February introduced plans to enforce age checks on all porn sites, is closing its consultation period next Wednesday.

The online consultation survey, available here, seeks views from the public, including industry stakeholders, on the government’s manifesto to require age verification for access to adult sites online. 

The U.K., which intends on creating a regulatory framework in order to help ensure that laws applying to porn sites are effective in driving change, has said that civil sanctions would be necessary to force compliance.

Whatever amounts from the survey, the U.K. government plans on moving on new policies quickly as the legislation has been placed on the “fast track” by Parliament.

In the survey, the U.K. government asks various questions, including whether all online porn, including soft porn, should be subjected to age checks, as well as the topic of which content access control (CAC) systems (credit cards, personal digital identity management services such as the electoral roll and others) should be employed.

The survey is based on the results from a 44-page paper called "Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography."

In the paper, the U.K. government elaborates on rolling out a new plan to deal with non-complying porn sites that don't ensure their users are over 18.  

The consultative paper places a specific target on the vast amount of free, all-you-can view porn websites that make money off advertising — adult tube sites — many of which are located outside the U.K.

The paper offers a proposal that would see offending porn sites cut off from their payment providers, advertisers and other services, essentially killing their U.K. business.

The paper explains that Ofcom, the regulator of age checks on porn sites, could be given powers to impose sanctions, which could be in the form of a civil sanction with fines or a criminal offense that could lead to incarceration.

Companies that support or provide services to offending online adult sites without proper age checks, which may include confirmation of credit card ownership to cross-checking a user's details with information on the electoral register, would be "directed" to withdraw those services if the sites are found to be noncompliant.

This could involve directing payment firms to cease processing transactions for the offending sites, according to the paper.

In February, Jerry Barnett, who leads the London-based Sex & Censorship organization, told XBIZ that the “proposals are to implement laws that can be used to attack those naughty foreign porn sites that ignore the U.K.'s age-verification regulations; in other words, all the porn sites in the world.”

In its paper, the U.K. government said that the online adult industry operates 5 million sites worldwide.

The online survey will close on Tuesday, April 12, at noon (BST).

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