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May 10, 2017

UK Digital Economy Act Brings Down Restrictions on Adult

LONDON—The U.K. Parliament on April 27 passed what has now become known as the Digital Economy Act 2017, which among other regulations requires that adult sites put age verification barriers into place and completely bans "extreme porn." In order to enforce the age verification requirement, the act calls for an "age-verification regulator" to be established which will be granted the power to levy fines of up to £250,000 ($323,000) or 5 percent of revenue against non-complying sites. While Engadget.com speculates that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will likely assume this role, the International Business Times points out that whatever agency does will face one major stumbling block in its tasked duty: "There is no agreed upon way to verify an individual visitor's age." Meanwhile, all adult material is henceforth prohibited within the U.K., IBT reports, that "depicts rape, sexual acts that may lead to harm or death, and other forms of violent sex acts." IBT goes on to say that the act "was rushed through Parliament without much discussion to pass it before the general election, set for June 8." Pornhub, for one, has decried the act as an ineffective overstepping of governmental bounds. In a statement posted by TheNextWeb.com, Pornhub vice president Corey Price asserted, "It is our corporate responsibility as part of the global tech community to promote ethical and responsible behavior. We firmly believe that parents are best placed to police their children's online activity using the plethora of tools already available in modern operating systems. The law has potential to send a message to parents that they no longer need to monitor their children's online activity, so it is therefore essential that the Act is robustly enforced. "Despite the law, those seeking adult content can still circumvent age verification using simple proxy/VPN services. Consequently the intent of the legislation is to only protect children who stumble across adult content in an un-protected environment. There are over 4 million domains containing adult content, and unless sites are enforced against equally, stumbling across adult content will be no harder than at present. If the regulator pursues a 'proportionate' approach we may only see the 'Top 50' sites being affected—this is wholly unacceptable as the law will then be completely ineffective, and simply disciminate against compliant sites. We are therefore informing, and closely monitoring the development of the regulations, to be published later this year, to see if they achieve the intended goals of the Act."

 
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