Papers Please, But For Porn Scheduled For A 2025 Debut In The UK


from the sorry,-these-papers-are-kind-of-stuck-together dept

Stop-start. Push-pull. Yank-tug. That’s the way things have been going in the UK. One would expect better performance from lawmakers with a hard-on for porn.

No. Not that way. (Although, maybe that way.) The UK government has spent several years trying to talk service providers, recalcitrant legislators, and the general public into trading away a bit of their privacy to save the children from the scourge of online pornography.

Porn filters have been proposed, implemented, and abandoned. Age-verification methods have been proposed, examined, and re-examined. The proposal that has proven most resilient involves letting service providers know who you are, how old you are, and that you definitely intend to consume porn content.

This proposal obviously raises privacy concerns. While UK residents might be (reluctantly) willing to inform their service providers they’d like to see some pornography, they’re likely far less willing to notify their government of this same information. The government says it’s only interested in keeping those under the age of 18 away from adult sites, but the mechanisms for doing so necessitate the government being involved in some way with this gathering of very personal information from internet users.

Nonetheless, the UK government continues to insist this is the only practical option: demanding personally identifying info from porn fans. As Laurie Clarke reports for Politico, blocking access to porn sites by default will soon be the new normal in the United Kingdom. Time for everyone to reach into their pants to locate their… um… wallets, purses, etc.

Before diving into a sea of graphic content, they’ll first be asked to prove they’re over 18 — and this time, ticking a box won’t cut it.

Porn perusers will soon have to prove their age by uploading an identity document like a passport, registering a credit card, presenting their face to AI-powered scanning technology, or using a handful of other methods outlined in draft guidance from the regime’s regulator, Ofcom.

Sure, Ofcom may be seeking input, but it hardly seems like anyone’s opinions will matter. Comment all you want but it’s unlikely to change what’s coming: the debut of porn filtering that can only be removed by proving to providers (and, ultimately, the UK government) you are who you are and you are someone who wants to view porn.

The upshot of this move is that UK residents won’t stop trying to access porn. They’ll just start looking for it in places beyond the reach of UK legislators. That’s what’s happening in the United States, thanks to a handful of states passing legislation that requires porn sites to gather and retain personal information about their users.

Rather than gather incriminating information on behalf of a handful of state governments, US porn sites have simply decided to block users it believes reside in affected states. Traffic has plummeted at these sites as a result of these laws, but that hardly suggests most users were underage. Instead, it suggests people aren’t willing to share their porn viewing habits with government entities. Even if regulators can’t (currently) access this data, the perception is that they can… or will, as soon as they can come up with a justification for doing so.

Everyone’s less safe now, including the minors these laws were crafted to “protect.”

“These people did not stop looking for porn,” an [Pornhub parent company] Aylo spokesperson said. “They just migrated to darker corners of the internet that don’t ask users to verify age, that don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously, and that often don’t even moderate content.”

That’s going to happen in the UK, too. Ofcom knows this. And if Ofcom knows this, legislators should know this.

A survey commissioned by the regulator last year found that 55 percent of porn viewers said they would look for porn elsewhere if asked to verify their age, while only 29 percent said that they would comply. 

The percentage of UK residents willing to look elsewhere for porn jumps to 80% when respondents were asked if they were willing to upload copies of identifying documents to websites to obtain access.

And it’s not just porn sites that will have to start demanding people’s papers upon entry. It’s also sites likes X, Reddit, Wikimedia, and other third-party content hosts that allow pornography on their sites. Locking minors out of these sites means denying them access to plenty of non-porn content that they might find useful, educational, or otherwise engaging.

Then there are the even more problematic aspects of instituting this policy. Erecting a wall seems like a good idea until you realize everyone else has already found a way around it. Ask anyone who’s instituted a paywall how that’s going. Regulators in the UK are actually considering heading down the road to totalitarianism. You know, for the children.

To solve the issue of evasion with VPNs, “the answer is obviously to either impose age assurance globally” or for porn sites to begin detecting and blocking VPN traffic, says Corby.

Restricting VPN use itself — usually a hallmark of autocratic regimes — has been promoted by Labour MPs as a potential means of preventing U.K. residents from circumventing the Online Safety Act.

As anyone with a bare minimum of world history under their belt can tell you, once you head down that road, it’s much easier to continue on than reverse direction. Restricting VPN use won’t just keep minors from accessing porn, but it will prevent journalists from talking to sources, businesses from maintaining secure remote connections, and inflict a lot of pain on people who simply don’t believe it’s anyone else’s business what they do online.

Filed Under: ofcom, porn, porn filters, porn license, uk


Source : https://www.techdirt.com/2024/02/12/papers-please-but-for-porn-scheduled-for-a-2025-debut-in-the-uk/

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