Porn sites will carry age checks for UK users from July – what you need to know

Brits who watch porn online will be forced to prove their age before accessing X-rated sites like PornHub and YouPorn from the summer.

The government has confirmed that the controversial age-verification checks will come into force on 15 July 2019, forcing users to prove they are 18 before accessing adult content.

Websites that fail to implement age-verification technology face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK users.

"Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online," said Minister for Digital, Margot James.

"The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we've taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content.

"We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”

Here's what you need to know about the new age-verification system:

Why are the checks being introduced?

 

A large amount of pornography is available online with little or no protections to ensure that those accessing it are old enough to do so.

In turn, this is changing the way young people understand healthy relationships, sex and consent.

In response the UK government brought forward legislation in the Digital Economy Act 2017 to combat these changing attitudes, and ensure that what is unacceptable offline is unacceptable online.

Under the terms of the Act, all online commercial pornography services accessible from the UK are required to carry age-verification controls.

How will it work?

 

There will be a number of age-verification options available, depending on what website you're trying to access.

The checks will be rigorous – you won't be able to just type in your date of birth or tick a box.

Age-verification solutions range from the use of traditional ID documents online (for example, credit cards or passports) to mobile phones where the adult filters have been removed.

Mindgeek – the company that owns Pornhub, YouPorn, RedTube and Brazzers – has developed its own system called AgeID.

Another company, AVSecure, offers an age verification solution called AgePass which uses blockchain technology to protect the viewer's anonymity.

Software providers AgeChecked and 1Account are among the other companies offering age-verification solutions to adult website publishers.

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Is it safe?

Privacy campaigners are naturally concerned about what might happen in the event of a security breach.

Last year, VR porn site SinVR was hacked, exposing the details of 20,000 users.

However, most of the age verification companies claim that they do not store ID details – they are simply used to verify the user's age and then discarded.

Moreover, they claim that all email addresses and passwords are "hashed", so even if its servers are hacked, users' personal data will not be compromised.

If you are worried about the security of your data, make sure you check the age-verification company's terms of service before handing over your details.

What if I don't want to hand over my personal details?

 

For anyone who doesn't feel comfortable handing over sensitive information, there will be another way to prove your age.

Several of the age-verification companies are selling "porn passes" in shops across the UK, which will allow people to verify their age anonymously.

In the case of AgeID, these passes are known as PortesCards. They will cost £4.99 for use on a single device, or £8.99 for use across multiple devices.

As with alcohol or cigarettes, buyers will either have to be visibly over 18, or prove their age using a valid form of identification which contains their age.

Once you have purchased your PortesCard, you will have 24 hours to activate the unique validation code via the Portes app before it expires. This is to prevent secondary market sales.

You can either scan the card or manually enter the voucher code into the Portes app.

The app will convert this into a virtual "proof-of-age" card on your device, and then invalidate the card, so it cannot be used again.

Any porn site using the AgeID system will accept this as proof of age.

This is a "one-time verification", so if you have verified your age on one AgeID-protected site, you will not need to do it again on any other site using the AgeID system.

Will it work?

 

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws.

They have confirmed that they will begin enforcement on 15 July, following an implementation period to allow websites time to comply with the new standards.

However, the BBFC's job will be to police the porn sites – not the people trying to access them.

A survey of 25,000 viewers by porn site xHamster last month found that two in five plan to use a virtual private network (VPN) to get around the age checks, rather then verify their identity.

VPNs make it seem as if the viewer is visiting the site from another country, thereby circumventing the age-verification checks.

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