No UK Government Protection from Porn for Children till end 2023/early 2024

Having pulled the plug on age verification legislation one week before it was due to be implemented in 2019, Boris Johnstone and his government continue to drag their feet over providing adequate protection for children from easy to access hardcore porn. The Online Safety Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Sadly, it is not likely to be implemented in law until late 2023 or early 2024. This means that in the absence of effective legislation, educational tools are all the more necessary. See our free lesson plans, and parents’ guide.

Age verification briefing update

To discuss this and related developments around the world, The Reward Foundation and John Carr OBE, Secretary to the Coalition on Children’s Charities in the UK, ran a briefing update on 31st May 2022. We welcomed 51 professionals from 14 countries to the May event. (The report from our original briefing on June 2020 is available here.)

The briefing included an excellent update from the Age Verification Providers Association on the technology that is available to websites that need to prove the age of their users. This included mention of the EUConsent project that will provide electronic identification and trust services for children in Europe. Further, a system is being developed whereby a person will only need to be verified once to prove age and that proof will be valid for other services that require proof of age. It will be a sort of age verification passport in the form of an electronic token.

The briefing also had an update on research on the effects of internet pornography on the adolescent brain. There is a briefing from Denmark about a new nationwide study on Danish adolescents and their experiences with pornography.

As a result of the event, we shall soon be adding updates to our 20+ pages on AV on our website.

If you want to keep up to date with what is happening on age verification, John Carr produces a first-rate blog called Desiderata that keeps everyone aware of the developments UK, across Europe, and US on this important area. His blog also provides a summary of the key points from the Online Safety Bill

Other news

On 22 June 2022, Louisiana became the first American jurisdiction to implement AV legislation. Time will tell how effective it will be in practice.

Louisiana has adopted civil legislation, not criminal law. It allows state residents to sue any commercial entity for failing to implement age verification to prevent minors from accessing harmful material. The Bill defines pornography as material harmful to minors. It applies to sites where more than one-third of the content is pornographic.

We are told “It was met with little opposition as it passed in their senate 34:0 and House 96:1.

No limits have been set on the size of civil damages for an offence. The bill includes clauses preventing age verification systems from processing user data, thereby protecting individual privacy. The law will come into force on January 1st, 2023.

The next step will be to see if any Louisiana citizen tries to take advantage of the law. They will need to pursue a legal process against a pornography supplier who does not have adequate age verification measures in place. Proving causation might be tricky.

Breaking news from New Zealand

A poll commissioned by Family First NZ was released on June 24 2022, demonstrating substantial public support for age verification in New Zealand. Support for a law was 77% while opposition was just 12%. A further 11% were unsure or refused to say. Support was stronger amongst females and those aged 40+. Support for the law was also consistent across political party voting lines. At present the NZ government is actively resisting the idea of age verification legislation.