The government has confirmed that it will make broadband and mobile providers block access to sites containing adult material like pornography. The restrictions will apply to sites that don’t have sufficient age verification methods for visitors.
The new rules will be introduced as part of the Digital Economy Bill, which was officially passed last week. They require sites that contain adult material to force users to state how old they are, before giving the access.
It's the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) that will be responsible for judging whether an adult site's age filter is sufficient or not. If it gives it the thumbs down, that site will be blocked for all UK internet users - even if they have web filtering turned off.
Karen Bradley, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said: "The Government is committed to keeping children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing.
"Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites refuse to comply, they should be blocked."
The rules will apply to both websites that are based in the UK, and those that come from other countries. The exception is the EU, where the process will be "compatible with country of origin rules" - in other words, if that country's more permissive than the UK when it comes to adult content, then they won't be held to the same restrictions.
Although the government seems focused primarily on pornography, the actual legislation just says 'adult content', which like much in the Digital Economy Bill has come under fire for being dangerously vague.
For example, any site that is deemed to have 'adult content' - be it a political blog or a dating site - could potentially now be barred. Jill Killock, the executive director for the Open Rights Group, said: "This could lead to tens of thousands of websites being blocked, despite their content being perfectly legal.
"In no way should this proposal be legislated for in this bill. There has been no thought or consultation, and the government has not even begun to define how blocking might be attempted.
"They have no idea if it would work well or badly, or whether there is serious enough harm to justify such a massive restriction on UK adults access to legal material.
"We do however know that over 90% of parents manage their children's activities online, according to OFCOM, and that 70% of households do not have children."