Last updated on April 17th, 2019 at 01:38 pm

UK Porn Block: Everything You Need to Know

With the ‘B’ word circus taking all the headlines in the past two and half years, you’d be forgiven for missing the debate about something we think is fairly important; your right to watch porn. Yes, the UK government has been trying to put restrictions on the public’s access to internet pornography since 2015. So far, all legal measures the government would need to impose the ‘porn firewall’ have passed through parliament, with radical changes to internet porn access set come into on 15th July.

Obviously this is not something that the front pages have been leading with; nobody wants to come across as a sexual deviant. But if statistics are to be believed, 51% of Brits ‘watch porn occasionally’, which means this is going to affect more people than most would care to admit. So what is the UK ‘porn block’? And how does it affect the average Joe? Here’s everything you need to know about the UK ‘porn ban’…

Why Do the UK Government Want to Block Porn?

The children. It’s always the children. The policy was first mooted by David Cameron in 2013 before Ed Milliband ate a bacon sandwich and the country went to pot. It came off the back of an NSPCC report that claimed that more than half of children and teenagers that accessed porn “stumbled across” it.

We should say that the research itself was done online by a third party and consisted of 11 questions where users were told to hand over the keyboard and mouse to a child… make your own minds up about that.

Regardless of the veracity of the research, the government decided using age verification techniques – which currently involves a simple “Are you over 18?” – needed to be far more robust. The result is an automatic block, introduced under the Digital Economy Act 2017.

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How Will the UK Porn Block Work?

From 15th July 2019, all UK-based internet users will be required to prove their age before accessing the country’s most-used adult websites. No ID, no entry. As such, websites will be required to adopt an age verification system. The block was meant to come into effect on 1st April but has since been delayed yet again. So how do they work?

Well, probably the most controversial way of accessing porn is by heading to your local newsagents… seriously. Over-the-counter ‘porn passes’, costing around £5, will be available from corner shops later this year. These passes generate a unique 16-digit ID code which vouches for your adult status online. But if you don’t fancy being humiliated in public (you bore), then there are alternatives.

The government has decided not to implement the porn block itself, but to leave it up to the industry, so you’ll have to use each website’s own verification process. AgeID by MindGeek looks set to be one of the most popular systems. Brought to you by the company behind Pornhub, RedTube and YouPorn, their system will offer the option of SMS, credit card, passport, or driving licence to verify your age, as well as the shop-bought porn passes.

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What About My Privacy?

Well, quite. According to their own stats, the world’s most-visited porn website, Pornhub had 92 million visitors per day in 2018, and the UK was its second biggest traffic driver. Though we’re assured by AgeID that they “can neither see, nor store any of this age verification data” (as they use 3rd party providers to perform the verification), essentially you’re still potentially being asked to announce to credit card companies that you’re about to tuck into some porn.

Then there’s how the database would be used. Pornhub or whoever will now have access to your name, age, gender, possibly address and behaviours. With the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica controversy, the public’s trust in how big tech companies will use such intimate data is hardly sky high.

If such a database were to be hacked, the fallout would be catastrophic. Remember when that Ashley Madison database was hacked? $11 million in compensation was paid out to 33 million people. That would pale into comparison should Pornhub ever suffer a similar breach.

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“Why Isn’t More Being Made of This?”

We’re asking the same question. We make the UK porn block basically one of the worst ideas ever conceived. Firstly, it’s politically motivated regulation based on shoddy research. But even excusing the concept, the execution is fundamentally flawed.

If children do actually happen to “stumble across” pornographic material, it’s almost certainly on social media where things are far more difficult to moderate. The new UK legislation, however, doesn’t affect the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. And if kids really are somehow finding their way into Pornhub, after the block chances are they’ll find other smaller adult sites where malware and dodgy subreddits are far more dangerous.

But if you’re not really bothered about access to porn and think “this doesn’t affect me”, then be warned; this is probably the first step towards a much regulated internet.

Is There Any Way Around the Porn Block?

A VPN is your new best friend.

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What do you think of the UK Porn Block? Is it a step in the right directions to protecting kids? Or is the start of stripping back civil liberties? Have your say in the comments below.

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