The UK Is “Banning” Porn. What Does That Actually Mean For You?

Edited 11/02/2019: This article has been updated in light of comments received by AgeID, the age verification product owned by MindGeek

Hoping to regain their title as the world leaders of prudishness, the UK will shortly be imposing some world-first restrictions on online porn.

So, what’s this all about? How will it affect over-18s? Why is no one talking about this? And what can you do about it?

First of all, what is it?

The changes to the law were snuck in under the Digital Economy Act 2017. Along with some hazy changes to government access to public data, the legislation states commercial websites must ask users to verify their age before they can view pornographic content.

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The government hoped this law would be up-and-running by April 2018, but it faced delays while ministers struggled to make a workable system. By all accounts, the act is now ready to be rolled out by early spring 2019, perhaps even earlier.

It’s unclear how social media platforms or websites like Reddit will fit in under this as the act says it only applies to “commercial” pornographic websites, however it will most likely be applied to all major pornography sites and “tube sites”.

Why You Should Care About This (Even If You’re Over-18)

Chances are, you are over 18 years of age and you can legally watch online pornography anyway, so what’s the big deal?

The aim of this, according to the UK government, is “to make the internet safer for children.” This is obviously a worthy cause, but many experts are concerned that the legislation will diverge from its good intentions and could open a Pandora’s box of wider consequences. 

“As I’ve said before, pornography is the ‘canary down the mine’ of free speech, other freedoms will fall subsequently,” Myles Jackman, one of the UK’s leading obscenity and pornography lawyers, told IFLScience.

“Having delayed it for a year, it’s increased in parliament support, to the extent now age-verification is being talked about for social media log-ins and other online users – and that’s extremely concerning.”

XXX Data Breaches 

It is not exactly clear how the government are going to execute this, but it is unlikely to be just an “I am over 18” tickbox. Some have suggested that it could be a similar deal to online gambling age-verification, whereby users are expected to plug in their credit card details or ID to prove their age. Alternatively, there is also talk of convenience stores selling so-called “porn passes” that would allow access to adult websites with a 16-digit passcode, provided they show the shopkeeper their ID.

One of the companies that are developing an age-verification system is MindGeek, the multinational company behind all the big names in online sauciness, including Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn, Brazzers, and many others. 

This bank would be a gold mine for anyone hoping to gather up dodgy data for sinister purposes. Remember the data breaches at Ashley Madison in 2015? Hackers stole over 60 gigabytes worth of users’ data from Ashley Madison, an online dating agency marketed to people who wanted to have an affair. The data, which quickly made its way onto the dark web, contained thousands of people’s names, emails, addresses, sexual fantasies, and credit card information.

Now, imagine a bank containing all of the personal information, sexual preferences, and credit card details of everyone in the UK who’s ever watched porn.

“We don’t have any firm answers about how securely data will be held or what’s going to happen in the event of a security breach and data loss,” adds Jackson.

“They’re suggesting GDPR [current UK data protection laws] will be sufficient, but I personally argue the type of data being held is much more sensitive, and this won’t carry enough weight.”

In an email to IFLScience, AgeID – the age verification product owned by MindGeek – said: “AgeID has been designed with privacy and security at its core, so much so that we believe we provide the most robust solution available. AgeID does not know the identity or date of birth of its users, all it knows is whether a hashed account is over 18. AgeID is just a single sign-on, it is not age verifying the age of its users, it doesn’t even receive the user data and transfer it onto our third-party age verifiers. We wanted to ensure clear separation between AgeID and age verification data and have taken very big steps in ensuring that is the case.”

Will It Work? No, Not Really

It will be relatively easy to override all of this using some relatively basic tech wizardry. The UK will be the only jurisdiction where this law applies, but it’s possible to fake your geo-location using a VPN (virtual private network). Equally, it seems a bit optimistic just to assume that prohibition will simply eradicate teenager’s curiosity to experience pornography. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“In practical terms, this is unworkable,” Jackman continues.

“It is just intended to protect younger children. The child protection imperative is very important, but I don’t think it will protect children from the most serious concerns. It’s virtually impossible to take a determined teenager and stop them from looking at these materials.”

In response to this, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – who is tasked regulating this act – argue: “Age-verification is not a silver bullet. Some determined teenagers will find ways to access pornography. However, children will no longer stumble across pornography on commercial pornographic websites.”

Who Decides What’s Porn?

The legislation also has some control over what is defined as porn. Within this comes the opportunity to make subjective, politically-tinged, moral judgments about what is fair game and what is just cheap smut.

In 2014, the same UK government banned “female ejaculation” and “face-sitting” from making an appearance in disturbed porn films (although this was overturned on January 31, 2019). This sparked a fair amount of opposition from people arguing that this was sexist, as male ejaculation and aggressive male-orientated oral sex acts were not included. 

“I felt that this was the beginning of something to creep into my sexual freedom and sexual preferences,” Mistress Absolute, 39, a professional dominatrix and fetish promoter, told The Guardian in 2014. “This is a gateway to other laws being snuck in.”

Obviously, it can’t be ignored that the Digital Economy Act 2017 is being introduced to protect young children. However, it does undoubtedly open wider questions and concerns about the future of the online world and sexuality, and the government’s role in these two sacred places. 

 

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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