Insights & Analyses

UK will require age verification identity checks for online pornography by spring 2018

July 17, 2017

As part of the country’s Digital Economy Act and efforts to protect children, the U.K. will begin requiring online pornography sites to verify visitor ages, though many specific details on how the identity checks will be enforced remain unclear.

The new age verification requirement will go into place in April 2018, U.K. Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock announced on Monday. He cited the “complex” nature of the program as reason it won’t go into effect until next year.

Once in place, the law will make it possible for porn providers to be fined, be severed from their payment providers, or even be blocked by internet service providers.

As of this week, however, the U.K. is “bringing into force powers to designate the regulator and powers to allow guidance to be issued.” A regulatory body will be tasked with overseeing and enforcing the rules regarding adult content on the internet.

Visitors to porn sites may be required to give credit cards details — even if the site provides content free of charge — in order to verify their age, according to the BBC.

Numerous questions remain, including how the policies and enforcement will apply to sites not located within the U.K.

There is also the question of sites that may host some pornographic content from users, even though the intent of the site itself may not be X-rated. Officials signaled earlier this year that sites such as Twitter will not be shut down, though ISPs may be forced to block offending porn-specific sites, according to Ars Technica.

Regulation may be handled by the British Board of Film Classification, but obviously questions remain about what type of content will be considered pornographic, and what types of sites with user-hosted content will be exempt.

Comments from officials would suggest that the onus for verifying a visitor’s age will depend on the sites themselves, as the U.K. will not be providing a standardized identification method.