"Is It Legal To Watch Porn?" Is One Of The UK's Top Searches, So Here's A Reminder Of The Rules

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The internet provides me with most of my general knowledge, medical diagnoses, and current events news. Another thing that many of us seem to turn to the internet for is legal advice. Well, the guys over at data analytic company SEMrush have conducted some research to see what the most common things people are asking "is it legal to…" do, and one thing seems to be playing on people's minds. "Is it legal to watch porn?" is one of the UK’s top searches, so here is what you need to know. With new rules on age restrictions, the way you watch adult content online may be about to change, so searching if it's legal isn’t as silly as it sounds.

If you have ever wondered if you are the only one who turns to the internet to justify your questionable behaviour then don’t worry, you’re not alone. SEMrush has carried out research about the top "is it legal to…" searches, and the findings are pretty revealing. "Is it legal to marry my cousin" is the most popular search in the UK. The second most searched phrase is "is it legal to record someone" and in at number three, people are wondering if it's legal to drive without your shoes. Never mind legality, who the hell WANTS to drive barefoot?

People also searched for whether it was legal to stop their child seeing their father, park on the pavement, drink in public, and sleep in their car. While it would seem a lot of people are unsure whether their risky car antics are actually legal, it was a more private search that caught my eye. The research found that the eighth most popular search was "is it legal to watch porn."

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This may seem a little nonsensical, as porn is so easily available online in the UK, however, it's actually a very important question right now. The government have recently announced that there will be age verification measures introduced to porn sites in a bid to prevent children under the age of 18 seeing adult content. It is more commonly known as the 'porn block.' Under these new rulings, 'sex websites' that run as a business and make money don’t introduce “robust” age-verification procedures then they may face the severe consequences of being blocked by internet service providers and fined up to £250,000, the BBC reports.

The porn block won’t make adult content illegal but it will make it much more difficult to access for under-18’s. How you prove your age will vary between different websites, with the BBC suggesting that users may be asked to upload scans of their passports or driver's license. It has also been reported that some newsagents may sell "porn passes" —cards given to people to access porn sites after they have proven they’re over 18.

According to the BBC, these changes have been a long time coming. Plans for the porn block date all the way back to the 2015 election when David Cameron pledged to change the way that adult content can be viewed online.

The porn block was passed through parliament in April 2017 as part of section 14(1) of the Digital Economy Act but is yet to be implemented over two years later. The launch date was set for July 15 2019 after already being delayed from April 2018. However, you might not need to get your ID out just yet. On June 20 2019, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced that, due to the fact that the government failed to tell European regulators about their plans, the porn block could be delayed for another six months, the BBC reports.

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Speaking in the House of Commons Wright said, “upon learning of this administrative oversight I have instructed my department to notify this guidance to the EU.” He continued:

“In the meantime there is nothing to stop responsible providers of online pornography implementing age verification mechanisms on a voluntary basis and I hope and expect many will do so.”

The main reason the government says it wants to implement the porn block is to protect under-18's. Speaking about the policy the Chief Excutive of Childnet Will Gardner said in a statement, “we hope that the introduction of this age-verification will help in protecting children, making it harder for young people to accidentally come across online pornography, as well as bringing in the same protections that we use offline to protect children from age-restricted goods or services.”

However, others have argued that the blanket age verification will have a disproportionally negative impact on online sex workers and sex bloggers. Campaigners have also expressed fears about privacy. Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group told The Independent, “due to the sensitive nature of age verification data, there needs to be a higher standard of protection than the baseline which is offered by data protection legislation.”

While sex sites have yet to confirm how they will be getting users to verify their age, what is known for sure is the porn block will not be implemented on July 15 2019 as planned. Questioning whether porn is illegal in the UK might seem like a bit of a silly question but changes are coming to how you watch adult content, so it's a topic worth researching.