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UK Internet Censorship: Current status

The Digital Economy Act 2017 threatened to introduce strict age verification for internet porn access coupled with ISP blocking for websites that don't comply. However the legislation was fundamentally flawed by its voluntary approach to privacy and security. After a series of delays, the age verification section of the bill was put out of its misery in October 2019.

The censorship of internet porn will now be carried over into the Online Harms Bill which has wider ambitions on the censorship of the whole internet. This bill will be discussed during 2020. An interesting foible is that if the censorship rules are a bit tough for US internet giants then these may become a negotiating point in the upcoming trade talks with the US.

Prior to the Online Harms Bill will be consideration of the extension of EU VoD censorship under an updated AVMS directive. Ofcom had previously mirrored censorship arrangements as proposed for the Digital Economy Act but now may need to reconsider as age verification services will not be so readily available. Also there is the issue that any onerous censorship/age verification requirements would only apply to websites run from Britain so onerous rules may prove very unfair.

Meanwhile the Information Commissioner's Office has published wide ranging age verification requirements for most websites in the name of data protection for children, Eg Amazon shoppers may have to prove being 16+ before being allowed to hand over personal details to online checkouts. Since the draft, ICO downgraded 'age verification' to 'age assurance' suggesting that less rigorous age checking may be sufficient. ICO have probably created a difficulty for companies to earn a living, as the no data slurping requirement for kids may prove attractive to adults too. Users may prove a little reluctant to 'assure' their age.

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About the Melon Farmers is an anti-censorship campaigning website.

It is not a traditional campaign or political organisation. There are no members, no subscriptions and no constitutions. Just a bunch of good people who contribute news, information and opinion.


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