UK porn block to be delayed again indefinitely

The UK’s department for digital culture is expected to announce that its controversial planned ‘porn block’ will be put on ice for the foreseeable.

The UK department for digital, culture secretary Jeremy Wright is expected to confirm in parliament that the planned ‘porn’ block will be subject to delays yet again, News reports.

This is the third delay the legislation, first passed in the 2017 Digital Economy bill, has been subject to. This refutes the previous statement made by the department that July 15th as the date the block would be put in place.

The first intended date for the ban was set at April 2018. However, at that point it was announced the UK government would hold off but that the infrastructure to make the ambitious ban possible would be in place “by Easter of [2019]. When April 2019 came around, however, the government initially declined to give a specific date for roll-out, saying it wanted to take its time to ensure implementation would be effective. Now, it seems, the government has confirmed it will need an indefinite amount of time to do so.

The proposed porn block would require all individuals to verify their age when visiting porn websites. ISP providers would be required to block any porn websites that fail to comply with the legislations, as well as allowing for non-compliant sites to be fined. The British Board of Film Classification has been tipped to oversee the new legislation and mete out suitable punishments for offenders.

The legislation has been hailed as the first of its kind in the democratic world and widely derided as utterly unworkable. Privacy rights groups have been adamant that it would be a data protection nightmare, as many of the proposed systems for verifying user ages rely on the user handing over highly sensitive data such as their passports or credit card numbers.

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Critics have pointed out that this would make the age verification system a lucrative target for cybercriminals and moral vigilantes alike, and could result in the fall-out similar to the infamous 2015 Ashley Madison hack.

MindGeek, a company that owns the vast majority of major porn sites such as YouPorn, Pornhub and RedTube, has put forward its own in-house ‘Age ID’ system as a way to vet ages for users, a move which has raised eyebrows among commentators, with some arguing that this amounts to letting the industry self-regulate on the matter.

Ireland’s plans

In Ireland, the Government has similarly been floating the prospect of attempting to implement a porn ban. Durling Leader’s Questions in the Dáil, Labour leader Brendan Howlin asked if Ireland had any intention of bringing in a porn block similar to the UK’s, citing the discovery of some 12,000 pornographic images on the phone of Boy A, a defendant in the Ana Kriegel criminal trial who was recently found guilty of her murder and violent sexual assault.

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it would consult with the UK government about how the block is working, an action that will presumably also need to be delayed until there is a block to report on.

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