Okay, so it’s a bit of a taboo subject, but we might as well get it over and done with. Last year we sort of jokingly wrote about the Queen banning porn for 9 to 12-year-olds thinking it did not have a chance. Well, guess what… The UK government have recently introduced new legislation to block anonymous users on adult sites.
In other words, you have to register to watch internet porn, which is a significant change from the current model. The intent is to ban under-18’s from using these websites, as they won’t be allowed to register.
So, what do the changes mean for the average U.K adult, and why has the government decided to go after adult websites?
Changes to the law about adult content on the Internet
In April 2017 the Digital Economy Act (DEA) passed into law. It replaces the DEA of 2010 and aims to restrict access to online pornography, amongst other measures.
The Government has yet to decide how they’re going to enforce changes to the law. It’s somewhat understandable given the logistical nightmare of making it happen, but their ideas have been worrying.
The measures put forward so far have included providing credit card information to the web sites or registering via the electoral role.
More insane ideas include rocking up to the Post Office to register in person, which should go down a treat in smaller villages across the country. Even in larger cities, it’s not going to be a tantalising prospect to walk in and confirm your identification to watch porn.
Sadly, there’s little websites will be able to do to fight against the changes.
As long as the big ISP’s comply (and there’s no reason to think that they won’t), adult sites will be blocked at the source. Besides, the government can prevent most payments to the site via the UK.
So they’re going to have to comply. Collecting credit card information is also an incentive to offer paid services, which could increase revenue for adult websites.
With that in mind, why wouldn’t adult sites welcome more credit card info? What could go wrong!
What are the reasons for the changes?
Protecting children is the most popular right wing talking point. It’s easy enough to access websites in their current form, without many guards in place.
Most children are technically savvy enough to get past parental filters and firewalls. Mobile devices and tablets are also hard for parents to police, and they might not even be on the same network as a home router.
For the government, blocking access to websites at the source does make the most sense. And while it may inconvenience the public as a whole, they’ve made sure to present it as a moral crusade to protect the children.
After all, nobody wants to argue the case that kids should have access to pornography that he or she didn’t steal from his or her parents fair and square. It’s not as draconian as an outright ban, but it is a notable change from past thinking.
Critics would argue that it’s healthy for children to understand the nature of sex, and policing their browsing is a task that falls to the parent. Otherwise, it could force younger viewers to go to different sources, including the dark web.
Depending on how savvy they are, it’ll be difficult to block file sharing on peer to peer networks like BitTorrent leading to more copyright infringement.
The change to the law is viewed as a positive by organisations like the NSPCC, which discuss potential issues in-depth on their website.
They mention numerous studies, which argue that when children and young people are exposed to sexually explicit material, they are at greater risk of developing:
- unrealistic attitudes about sex and consent
- more negative attitudes towards roles and identities in relationships
- more casual attitudes towards sex and sexual relationships
- an increase in ‘risky’ sexual behaviour
- unrealistic expectations of body image and performance
Regardless, it’s a terrible situation for adults too, as they have done nothing wrong but still need to register for access to legal adult content.
What are the potential problems?
It’s worrying to think that adult websites will potentially have a database of user profiles, with credit card information, full names, and addresses of “window shoppers.”
How does the government plan on backing up the database of registered porn watchers? Will they leave it up to small-scale websites that may have less web security than your average mobile app?
If there’s a breach, it could lead to an uncomfortable situation for users. Infamous ‘cheat on your partner’ website Ashley Madison is probably the most high-profile adult site to get hacked.
In 2015, user data was stolen, and the hackers threatened to release users information if Ashley Madison wasn’t shut down.
The hacking group eventually released heaps of personal data. (Ashley Madison charged a fee to leave, which meant a significant number of users stayed on their database despite not using the service at the time.)
Users are still receiving blackmail threats to this day. This legislation could lead to similar problems seen on Ashley Madison on a much larger scale.
Consider the private nature of adult content; it’s dangerous to link innocent users to the legal porn they watch in the privacy of their own home.
There’s also an issue regarding privacy. In a worst case scenario, adult websites will sell profiles with detailed user preferences to marketers. Worse still, what happens when hackers get their hands on the data and sell users credit card information on carder forums?
Therefore, it makes sense that privacy advocates are unhappy with the changes to the law. Nobody will be exempt, and it’s enough to make most think twice about the five-knuckle shuffle. (Sorry.)
Personally, I believe that it’s fine for adults to watch what they want in the privacy of their own home. It’s a stringent measure to stop a problem I wasn’t particularly aware of, but I’ll readily admit that I’m not a parent.
What can you do to avoid registering?
Some people will disagree with the law purely because it’s seen as an invasion of privacy, and it’s a valid claim. But is there anything you can do to avoid registering when the law comes to pass?
Since a VPN will mask your country of origin by bouncing you to different locations, it’s a credible option for the time being. If you are new to Virtual Private Networking (VPN), we’ve got a number of articles that explain the basics of VPN.
VPN’s have already been blocked in a few countries across the globe. If they do the same in the UK, it could be the end of online privacy as we know it until more VPN services run obfuscation to bypass the VPN blocks.
Aside from that, it’ll be hard to avoid the blanket ban. With the government, ISP’s, and adult sites working together, it’s an unholy alliance of powers that’ll be tough to avoid for most adults. Teenagers, on the other hand, already know how to use BitTorrent, Kodi, Newsgroups, and IRC to download porn without a credit card.
For those under the age of 18, there isn’t much you can do legally. It feels a bit strange that you are allowed to vote (and have sex) at the age of 16, but you are such an impressionable youth that they are willing to make everyone in the country register to see nudity.
Otherwise, there’s always the option of giving up on adult content altogether, which is probably the wet dream of a few outraged types across the land.
For the rest of us, it’s a case of the needs of the few outweighing the urges of the many. After all, horny teenagers are at stake.
No matter the morality of the subject, changes to the law, meaning there’s a clear violation of privacy for the average user. Even so, there’s not much you can do to watch porn without registering. Aside from signing up for a VPN service or using P2P. Which I am sure most people will do.
There could be different workarounds in future, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Perhaps it’s a little too easy to access adult content in its current form, and it is a good thing that it’ll be harder for teenagers to find and watch. On the other hand, it’s not an enticing prospect for those forced to sign up to adult websites.
Given the popularity of pornography on the internet, it’s hard to see the majority of users accepting that they’ll have to give up or sign up.