Age verification takes another step forward in the UK

The Digital Economy Bill 2016 has just completed its 2nd Reading in Parliament. This is the first major step in the British legislative system. The 1st Reading is largely a formality. The 2nd is where the broad principles and policies behind a measure are debated.

The Bill passed with no votes against. It now goes to Committee where it will undergo line by line scrutiny. However, it is clear from the discussion that at least in respect of the child protection aspects of the Bill, most notably the clauses introducing compulsory age verification for pornography sites, there is an extremely wide  and supportive consensus.

The Government did not indicate that it had modified its position from that set out in the original draft. In other words they did not say they intended to introduce any legal compulsion  to withdraw payments and other ancillary support services  from non-compliant sites. Neither did they say they intended to give the proposed new regulator a power to compel access providers to block persistently non-compliant sites.

Yet many MPs from all parties urged the Government to consider doing just that and in his excellent summing up for the Government  the Minister, Matt Hancock, indicated that it would be necessary to revisit these matters in Committee and that he was keen to reflect on the views which had been expressed by the House.

It’s a long road ahead. Good points were made about privacy concerns that could arise if age verification becomes compulsory but I am certain they can all be answered openly and in a way that will satisfy even the most hardened sceptic.



About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More:
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