UK government faces lack of age controls on adult sites | Child protection
Lawyers have started judicial review proceedings against the government over allegations it has failed to stop children in the UK from viewing pornography online.
The age verification of legal pornography sites was introduced in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Law in 2017, but the government never enforced it.
The ministers said the online harm bill will instead protect children by placing the onus on internet providers to protect users from “harm,” including viewing pornography while they were minors.
But critics point out that this bill is currently only at the white paper stage with no current date to present it to parliament.
Paul Conrathe, lawyer at Sinclairslaw, is taking legal action on the grounds that children are currently harmed by the lack of age verification, in direct violation of the government’s legal obligation to protect them.
Conrathe told the Guardian: “The government has sought to thwart parliament’s clear will to protect children from online attacks.
“In the meantime, the ease with which under-18s can access extreme pornography online has significant negative impacts on thousands of children every day. This includes adolescent girls who are sexually harassed at school. “
“By all accounts it will probably be at least two more years before any new online security law comes into effect, it may be longer.
“Five years is a very long time in the life of a teenager for whom the prevalence of online pornography has an effect on a daily basis.”
When culture secretary Matt Hancock vowed that new online harm legislation would make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online.”
Ava Vakil is one of the plaintiffs in the judicial review proceedings. She is a student and activist involved in the fight against adolescent sexual violence.
She said: “In my experience with sexual violence in schools, the first sexual experience of young people is increasingly pornography which often glorifies extreme violence against women.
“An 11-year-old can’t go to the movies and watch an 18-year-old movie, but with more ease, no ticket, he can see incredibly harmful content on his or a friend’s phone.
“It shouldn’t be bold or controversial to say that children shouldn’t have full and unhindered access to violent sexual images.”
The other claimant is the 52-year-old father of four, Ioannis Dekas, who argues that it is difficult to help his sons become men who respect women when they have so much access to violent imagery.
He said, “I take responsibility as a parent, but pornography harms our young people. There are times when they have accessed them despite our efforts to safeguard and protect them. “
A survey by City, University of London found that four in five British teenagers aged 16 and 17 had seen pornography online – most often after watching it on survey day.
The survey of 1,000 16 and 17 year olds found that many viewed pornography on social media sites, but it was seen more frequently on pornographic sites.
One of the arguments for not introducing age verification as proposed was that it would not cover social media sites.
Dr. Neil Thurman led the investigation. He said the results showed the importance of urgently implementing the legislation rather than waiting any longer.
“We found that youth visits to porn sites were surprisingly frequent, with the majority viewing pornography on the day of the survey.
“Considering how often our research shows porn websites are viewed by 16 and 17 year olds, waiting for the online harm bill to come into effect certainly carries some risk,” enabling adolescents to continue to regularly access problematic online content In several ways. “