The government of the United Kingdom (UK) has said that porn websites will be forced to install age verification software, to verify the age of their British users or they will be banned in the country from April 2018.
Literally, it means that people in the UK will have to prove they are 18 before being allowed to access pornography websites from next year.
The Mail on Sunday and The Times both reported that the plans, which have been in the works since last year, will be formally announced today as part of the Digital Economy Act.
Once officially announced, anyone from the UK looking to access an adult site will have to prove their age and potentially provide credit card information the same as they do for gambling sites.
Failure to do so could result in a bar on credit card payments from the UK or a block from being carried by UK internet service providers.
Any website that doesn’t meet the April 2018 deadline of the Digital Economy Act could be fined up to £250,000.
The aim is to prevent children from being exposed to pornography online, which child protection charities warn can have damaging effects on their development.
In a statement issued, the government minister Matt Hancock said: “We are taking the next step to put in place the legal requirement for websites with adult content to ensure it is safely behind an age-verification control.
“All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world.”
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, has warned that the new rules could lead to a repeat of the 2015 Ashley Madison scandal, when a database of users of a dating website for people seeking extra-marital affairs was hacked.
“Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK’s porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks,” said Mr Killock.
“The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users.
“There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification. We are concerned that the porn company MindGeek will become the Facebook of age verification, dominating the UK market.
“They would then decide what privacy risks or profiling take place for the vast majority of UK citizens.”