The South African Film Board is charged with developing regulations to give effect to their recently adopted law requiring age verification for pornography sites. A consultation was held on how the regulations might be implemented. It closed yesterday. After thanking them for the opportunity to comment this is what I said:
I only have a few, limited points to make about your proposed regulatory regime.
- You should ensure your regulations make clear the Board will not accept as valid any age verification solution provided or supplied by any company or organization with economic or other material ties to any entity connected with the publication of pornography. This is vital to maintain public confidence in the age verification process.
- The tone and manner in which the age verification solution is presented or marketed should stay tightly focused on the protection of children from age inappropriate content.
- Age verification is about upholding children’s rights. It is about meeting states’ obligations to protect children, for example under Articles 19 and 36 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child .
- Thus the policy should not appear to be intent on making access to pornography difficult, neither should it be possible to see it as or believe it to be an “anti-pornography measure”. Practically every publisher of porn acknowledges their material is not meant for children’s eyes but without a law requiring them all to use age verification it is impossible to make an age verification policy work.
- Any age verification solution should have only one objective: determining that the person who wishes to access a pornography site is 18 or above. The individual’s identity e.g. name, address or other identifying features are utterly irrelevant, excessive, and over intrusive. Collecting them will be seen as a threat intended to discourage people from accessing pornography sites. There are several age verification solutions available which do not require personally identifiable data to be recorded or retained yet can provide robust evidence that an age verification process has been completed.
- The public needs to have the highest confidence in the age verification solutions providers’ respect for their privacy. Compliance with strict privacy rules should be mandatory from Day 1.
- It would be greatly to everyone’s advantage if age verification was not solely or principally associated with pornography. There are other classes of audio visual materials which are supposed to be restricted to adults where the same regime should apply.
- A power to block access to non-compliant sites is essential.
- A power to direct payments companies, advertisers or ancillary service providers not to engage with non-compliant sites is also essential.
- Pornography sites should not be allowed to promote or be associated with VPNs or any marketing or other measures which would be likely to facilitate or encourage evading the age verification regime.