Government shouldn’t U-turn on age checks for porn sites
It came as no surprise when the Government postponed the introduction of age checks for porn websites (Issue 524, News, page 9). As a campaigner for child safety online, I fear that this delay will ill turn into a complete U-turn, with the Government abandoning the proposal totally, under pressure from privacy zealots and the porn industry itself.
The objection made to online regulations like these always focuses on how hard they will be to implement. The magic word ‘unworkable’ is always used. When experts declare something ‘unworkable’, the Government usually buckles. But what these experts really mean (but would never say) is that the regulations will eat into their profits too much. By contrast, when there’s big money to be made, tech companies rarely decline the opportunity on the grounds that it will be ‘too hard’. They always find a way, as the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal shows. I accept there’s a privacy risk with asking people to verify their age. But there’s a privacy risk with any transaction online that requires entering your personal data. Amazon’s mega growth wasn’t halted by fears that its stash of credit-card data would be hacked at any point. Why do privacy campaigners assume that porn sites are incapable of the same levels of security as Amazon, online banks, Google and others?
Recent figures show that thousands of under-11s have stumbled upon porn online. As a society we should be appalled by that. This will be the first generation in human history that’s been exposed to unrestricted sexual content on tap. It feels like a timebomb waiting to explode, an ill-judged social experiment destined to go wrong. But never mind. Preventing it is ‘unworkable’, so let’s just shrug our shoulders and pretend it’s not happening. Linda James