UK to indefinitely delay age-verification system for online porn

By Nick Statt

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The United Kingdom will likely delay its controversial age-verification system for online pornography ‘indefinitely,’ according to a report from Sky News. Citing multiple sources, Sky News says Jeremy Wright, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport secretary overseeing the UK’s regulation of the internet, will announce the delay tomorrow in British Parliament. The ban was slated to go into effect by July 15th, after numerous delays over the course of the last year or so. According to The Guardian, a government spokesperson “did not deny” that the system has been effectively shelved when reached for comment.

The age-verification system, which is also sometimes referred to as the UK porn block, was designed as a way to prevent children under the age of 18 of viewing illicit media on the internet. But its proposed implementation has raised serious concerns with privacy advocates, academics, and the global porn industry. Critics are fearful such a measure would give outsize power to MindGeek, the massive Canadian porn conglomerate that has been tapped to build and operate the age-verification technology. There is also concern such a system could open the door to severe privacy violations and potential blackmail related to the tracking of UK citizens’ porn habits.

Additionally, There have been concerns about how consistent the system would be. Security experts have found you can easily bypass such a block by using a Virtual Private Network that masks your country of origin. Social media sites, like Twitter and Tumblr, would also reportedly be exempt, causing concern for pornography websites that feel the system will allow such media to flow freely on the social web while crippling the industry that produces it. Back in March, a YouGov poll found that 76 percent of respondents in Britain were not even aware that the age-verification system was going into effect.