U.K. Digital Economy Bill Moves Forward to House of Lords

Nov 28, 2016 3:15 PM PST

LONDON — Members of the House of Commons today approved the third reading of the U.K. Digital Economy Bill, effectively sending the draft legislation to the House of Lords for consideration.

If all goes as planned by its backers, royal assent, which is needed to turn the bill into law, is expected early in 2017.

The Digital Economy Bill makes mandatory age checks for online porn and bans a range of "non-conventional" sex acts if put into law.

Under the proposal, any website that contains adult content and offers content in the U.K. must verify users’ ages using methods like credit card checks.

The proposal also applies to websites hosted outside the U.K. Those foreign porn sites that refuse to introduce age checks would be banned. Authorities, under the plan, would ask ISPs and mobile operators to block access to violating sites.

Matt Hancock, who acts as minister of state for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, however, noted today that portals like Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit — all of which contain sexually explicit material — wouldn’t be affected by the bill’s passage because they’re a “difficult technical nut to crack.”

"There is a difference between websites that provide commercial pornography and platforms on which others can upload images,” Hancock told members of Parliament at the House of Commons. “And getting this right around that second group is much harder than around the first group."

The Digital Economy Bill proposal also could censor certain content altogether.

Filmed sex acts that are deemed by the British Board of Film Classification to be “non-conventional” — including fisting, female ejaculation and public sex, as well as caning, whipping or spanking that leaves a mark — would be banned outright.

This would bring online content under the same restrictions that have been enforced for locally sold DVDs and through video on-demand sites.

It also would mean that catalogs of “extreme” adult content from foreign porn sites would become unavailable in the U.K.

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