Under the the draft Online Safety Bill legislation, adult websites (i.e. pornographic) site operators will be legally required to verify the age of website visitors or face tough penalties.

Online Safety Bill

For those who run commercial porn sites, the bill, which expected to be introduced to parliament in the next few months, looks likely to mean that:

– Their users may be asked to prove their age, e.g. by proving they own a credit card or confirming their age using a third-party service.

– Failure to comply with the legislation could see commercial porn site bosses held criminally liable. Also, for their business, this could also mean fines up to 10 per cent of their global turnover, or Ofcom (the UK’s communications regulator) blocking their websites from being accessible in the UK.

A Step In The Right Direction

Child safety groups, who have been seeking age verification on porn sites (and who were disappointed when similar measures dropped in 2019), have welcomed the measures in this now strengthened bill as a step in the right direction. However, the NSPCC, for example, has noted that the “legislation still falls short of giving children comprehensive protection from preventable abuse and harmful content”.

Reddit & Twitter Users Too

The draft Online Safety Bill also applies to a wide variety of online services and social media platforms. For example, when the bill moves into law, UK users of platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, on which can be found quantities of explicit adult material, may find that they need to verify their age before being able to login. The alternative, which would be complicated and challenging for social media platforms, would be to somehow remove all adult material from their services in the UK.

Also, Facebook & TikTok

Other obvious platforms which may require age verification under Online Safety Bill laws could be Facebook and TikTok.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For those who operate commercial porn websites, this new bill, when it moves into law, could obviously be a threat. For third-party verification service providers, the bill is clearly an opportunity. For the big social media platforms such as Facebook, although the idea has been welcomed, the details of the bill are unlikely to be popular. Nevertheless, platform bosses will be aware that executives can be personally given serious penalties (with a two-year grace period) which is likely to make them take some notice. Facebook, however, is already moving into a new, more controllable area with its Metaverse. Although parents and child safety advocates may take some comfort that the bill may provide better protection for their children, there is an argument that proving age verification may not provide protection from other sites where pornography exists and could threaten the privacy and security of users (i.e., data breaches and scammers). Furthermore, there is an argument that the need to scan social posts could, as highlighted by the Open Rights Group, mean encryption will need to be halted, further affecting privacy and security.

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