The UK porn block - everything you need to know

Censored laptop

What’s all this about a ‘UK Porn Block?’ Does this mean X-rated sites will soon be banned in the UK?

- Paul, via email

Not quite, Paul. You see, as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, from July 15, Brits who want to access adult entertainment sites will need to verify their age.

Indeed, Britain is the first country to make age-verification software on porn sites a legal requirement, and sites that don’t use the block face a hefty fine, or risk being banned from the UK altogether.

Why is this being introduced?

Naturally, online safety for children is extremely important. And, according to a 2016 NSPCC report, children and teenagers are now more at risk of being exposed to harmful content online than ever.

It’s no surprise, then, that according to a recent Government report 88% of parents in the UK with children between the age of 7 - 17 back the new age block.

It’s been enforced by the Government and implemented by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and will be applied to all porn sites, whether they are British or American.

How will it work?

The process will differ depending on the site, as each will use different software. What we can be sure of, though, is the restrictions will go beyond simply ticking a box.

MindGeek, for example - the company behind adult entertainment sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube - has created its own verification software called AgeID.

There are two ways to prove your age:

  • From a shop - the shop keeper will ask for ID - either your passport or driving license. After that, you’ll be given an aptly named ‘porn-pass’ over the counter to access sites online.
  • Online - You have the option to verify your age with Credit Cards, uploading Passports, Driving Licence, Credit card or Mobile SMS.

So far so good then - but what about your privacy?

Drivers license

Will my data be safe?

To be honest, no one can say for sure - there is no way of totally stopping data leaks, after all.

That said, MindGeek is adamant that it cannot store age verification data or monitor what you want watch online.

Conversely, an advisor for the Council of the Open Rights Group told the BBC: “It’s going to be the most hackable list of what people like to look at ever. Do you remember the Ashley Madison case and people killed themselves? I don’t think it’s outrageous to fear that’s what we could be looking at here, an actual loss of life.”

It’s also worth mentioning that AgeID provide things like ‘Portes’ ID cards. Apparently, the cards will cost 4.99 and will allow access to sites for 24 hours. Also, this method does not require an email address.

Are there ways around the block?

Most definitely, yes.

For one thing, VPN services can ‘virtually relocate’ users to countries without the porn block tech. Savvy teenagers might already be aware of this method.

Watch this space in the coming weeks for more details - we’ll keep you updated.