Age verification for pornography sites was a key measure advocated in the Digital Manifesto published by the UK children’s charities ahead of the 2015 General Election. Earlier this week that proposal was adopted in the Digital Economy Act, 2017. This shows that raising these matters with the political parties can bring about change.
However, further improvements in business practices and legislation are still needed. Summaries of some of the main improvements that have been identified are reflected in “Election 2017 – a Digital Manifesto” on the CHIS website but the text appears below.
Election 2017 is drawn from the original, larger 2015 document which can be downloaded from here.
Creation of a new independent statutory authority
- With powers to ensure businesses and other organizations are transparent and accountable in respect of child safety, child welfare and children’s rights in the online environment.
- The authority to publish codes of practice and make legally binding orders.
- The resources to further initiatives which help parents support their children’s use of the internet and associated technologies, promote children’s rights and fund research.
Improved business practices
- Anyone supplying legally age restricted goods or services over the internet must install a robust age verification mechanism and providers of online payments services must ensure they are not providing facilities to an entity in breach of this provision.
- Online businesses and other organizations must be able to demonstrate they have taken all reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure their services are not being misused to store or distribute child abuse images.
- Online businesses and other organizations must be able to demonstrate they are taking all reasonable and proportionate steps to enforce their Terms and Conditions of Service.
- A new law should establish an unequivocal duty of care to children on the part of every business or other organization providing online services or producing devices which can connect to the internet.
- Regardless of the child’s country of residence victims of child sex abuse should be able to obtain compensation from persons in the UK found in possession of images of their abuse.
Every UK territorial police force should have a dedicated unit with appropriately trained officers to deal specifically with sexual and other online offences against children.
Privacy and the age of digital consent
Before May 2018 Parliament must decide on the age of consent for data purposes for UK children. This will be at the heart of a range of children’s rights, particularly their right to privacy. The decision must be preceded by the fullest consultation and discussion with parents and children themselves.