Here's Why The UK Porn Block Has Been Dropped For Good

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

In April 2017 David Cameron's government passed a porn block through parliament as part of section 14(1) of the Digital Economy Act. The new ruling meant that age verification measures would have to be introduced to porn sites in a bid to prevent under 18s accessing adult content. However, on Oct. 16 it was announced that the porn block isn’t happening after all. After years of delays and a lot of criticism from those in the tech industry about how the changes could be rolled out, the government won’t be implementing any changes to the way that you watch porn.

The porn block was always going to be a pretty controversial policy. The BBC reported that the restrictions were first due to come into place in April 2018 and meant that if "sex websites" that run as a business and make money don’t introduce "robust" age-verification procedures then they may face the consequences of being fined up to £250,000 and blocked by internet service providers. However, April 2018 came and went. The date for the porn block was then pushed to July 2019. Come July, it was delayed again.

The reasoning put forward for the porn block was that it was to protect under 18s seeing sexually explicit content online. David Austin, chief executive of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), who were responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws once they were introduced, said: "Age-verification will help prevent children from accessing pornographic content online and means the UK is leading the way in internet safety."

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However, the porn block has now been halted once again, one of the main reasons being that the government failed to lay out a strategy for carrying out age checks online that would be both effective and safe. On top of that, a loophole in the ruling meant that websites with 33% or less pornography wouldn’t have to enforce the age-verification system, meaning social media sites such as Reddit and Twitter would be exempt. This led to people arguing that the porn block would be obsolete because under 18s would still be able to watch porn on social media.

Speaking about yesterday's decision, Tony Stower, the NSPCC head of child safety, said to the Independent: “We know that viewing this explicit material can harm children’s perceptions of sex, body image and healthy relationships.” He continued:

“This delay is disappointing, but it is also imperative that the vehicle used to achieve protection for children from pornography is robust and effective. The government cannot drag its feet on this.”

While the porn block policy may have been dropped, Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said in a statement, “the government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering.” She went onto explain that the government will be focusing on the wider issue of online harm, handing the responsibility of age verification back to porn sites' regulators:

"The Digital Economy Act objectives will, therefore, be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care."