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The Queen Wants 9 to 12 Year Olds to Quit Watching Porn

Andrew Orr In the News

Just over a month ago, we reported that Russia blocks PornHub for all users. Now it seems that the United Kingdom wants to ban all porn for its citizens, not just one website.

Further Reading

PornHub Blocked In Russia Here’s How To Watch It

Phishing: What It Is And How To Avoid It

Digital Economy Bill

The first steps to this ban was first seen in the Digital Economy Bill. The Queen first announced it in May, and the House of Commons introduced it into law in July. The bill includes some measures meant to boost the UK’s digital economy. One of them says:

“provide important protections for citizens from spam email and nuisance calls and protect children from online pornography.”

While protecting kids from porn is certainly a good thing, the method in which the government wants to achieve this is overzealous. The very fact that this is part of a bill shows that MPs realize most age verification tech doesn’t work. So to combat this, the UK is going so far as to ban ALL porn.

To give more details and put the bill in context, Open Rights Group laid out some hard data:

  • 70% of UK households don’t even have kids
  • Most of the users that access porn are adults
  • Less than 3% [PDF] of kids aged 9-12 are believed to have obtained “inappropriate material.”
  • Pornography “can and will be circulated by young people by email, portable media, and private messaging systems.”
  • The most effective protective measures are likely to help youth understand and regulate their behavior with education. But this is something that the government refuses to make compulsory (sex ed?)
Image credit: OfCom

Image credit: OfCom

Censorship

As Open Rights Group points out, censorship is an extreme response. In ideal conditions, regulators should reserve it for the worst/most dangerous kinds of media. Censorship affects both publishers and readers.

The Digital Economy Bill also has measures to target those services that “help” porn publishers. This doesn’t include “ancillary services” like credit card providers and advertising networks. But the term they use is vague. The bill describes these services as:

“provide[s], in the course of a business, services which enable or facilitate the making available of pornographic material or prohibited material on the internet by the [publisher]…”

Under this definition, these ancillary services could mean anything from website hosts, VPN services, search engines, DNS services, web designers, hosted script libraries, etc. Furthermore, this might even place further restrictions on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. Although these services already have their rules for acceptable content, the UK government might force them to do more.

Image credit: OfCom

Image credit: OfCom

Porn

The United States contains most of the pornographic industry. In the US, some courts treat age verification as an infringement on the right of individuals to receive and impart information. This is why you don’t see much age verification on porn sites. When regulators punish websites by blocking them, it’s also a punishment on the people that visit the website.

According to OfCom [PDF]: “More than nine in ten parents in 2015 said they mediated their child’s use of the internet in some way, with 96% of parents of 3-4s and 94% of 5-15s using a combination of regularly talking to their children about managing online risks, using technical tools, supervising their child, and using rules or restrictions.”

In other words, should it up to the government to censor porn websites, or is it the parents’ duty to monitor what their children access on the web?

It’s worth noting that studies like this realize that most teenagers are likely to continue accessing porn despite any measures put into place. That’s why the age group they tend to focus on is 9-12. While it’s important to make sure this age group stays safe online, technology like website filtering and parental supervision is better than censoring the entire United Kingdom.

Bypassing Censorship

Just in case this crazy bill does go into law, using a VPN can always help. No matter what country you’re in, whether you’re looking at porn or not, using a VPN bypasses these forms of censorship. A VPN can “change” your location to make it seem as though you’re in a different country. If you’re a UK citizen using a VPN, you can use a VPN server in the United States and watch all the porn you want. Just remember to use protection.

 

If you live in the United Kingdom we would love to hear what you think about your government’s latest attempt to control the content available to you. Got a story you want us to cover? Get in touch with us. We would love to hear from you.