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Campaigners threaten UK ICO with legal action over lack of age verification for porn

Campaigners threaten UK ICO with legal action over lack of age verification for porn

A group of children’s charities has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office to threaten a high court challenge if it fails to introduce age verification for pornography sites, reports The Guardian.

The move follows a series of twists and turns on the topic in the UK as various bills (Digital Economy Act 2017) and organizations have sought at times to tackle the issue or perform a U-turn (2019) on it, prompting the letter, penned by John Carr, secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, to outgoing information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham:

“You remain the only person in the country with the power to act to protect another generation of children from the distorting impact of open access to pornography, with all the dreadful and now well-documented effects we know that has on society, particularly in respect of violence towards women and girls. I ask you to reconsider your decision not to act against pornography websites.”

Carr points out that it is principally an issue of age verification for such sites, something which face biometrics and identity verification providers say is increasingly effective.

Last week, a judge gave campaigners permission to bring a similar judicial review against the government over its failure to deliver the Digital Economy Act which had specifically addressed age verification for pornography sites, reports The Guardian.

The ICO recently brought in the world-first Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) which requests that all sites and apps which are likely to be accessed by children, such as social media, make their offering child-friendly unless a user is understood to be an adult. Pornography sites do not class as being likely places for children and so are not covered.

There is another upcoming piece of legislations, the Online Safety Bill, which will charge tech firms and social media with a duty of care towards children, yet even this does not include age assurance. And so cross-bench peer Beeban Kidron who developed the AADC is bringing the Age Assurance (Minimum Standards) private bill to introduce age verification standards and also set out how children’s biometrics and other data should be handled.

A report on what the Online Safety Bill should include is expected in the next few days, reports the BBC, and could see fines of up to £18 million (US$24 million) or 10 percent of global turnover, whichever is higher.

In a series of articles supported by Humanity United, The Guardian explores the extent of harm children are being subjected to online and ways they can be protected.

Parents may soon be able to take the matter into their own hands with more powerful tools to monitor and block their children’s online lives. Trust Elevate is being piloted and would work with mobile operators (in addition to any on-device settings) to control access to sites.

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