About 10.00.p.m. last night the Digital Economy Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons. The key clauses on age verification had initially been tabled by Claire Perry MP with signatures from Members of Parliament from seven different political parties. The great news, previously relayed through my blogs, was that the Government, in essence, adopted Claire Perry’s amendments and made them their own. They went through without demur.
It is clear there are legitimate concerns around the privacy dimensions of how the policy will work in practice but as to the main idea – of using age verification to restrict access to commercial pornographic web sites – no one expressed any opposition at all.
The Bill now goes to our second Chamber, the House of Lords, where it is likely to occupy their Lordships until mid-February-ish. No doubt there will also be a “run-in” period, as there was when age verification for online gambling was introduced, so it could be yet a while before the new regime finally kicks in.
Almost certainly in the Lords there will be probing around some of the privacy angles but the chances 0f any of the key parts of the Bill affecting children being materially altered are extremely close to zero. This was a Manifesto pledge and the elected House has spoken.
Well done Claire Perry and well done the Government and all the political parties that helped get this measure through.
The internet is meant to be all about innovation. This is certainly a major innovative initiative and I am very pleased the UK is taking it. The eyes of the democratic world will be upon us and when we have demonstrated that the approach works, you can be sure many other countries will follow suit.
As I have said before – the internet is a family medium, a children’s medium, just as much as it is anything else, and its rules of the road will have to reflect that. Goodbye Wild West. Hello civilization.