Government admits that Twitter could be forced to block accounts for UK users

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Proposals in the Digital Economy Bill will allow the BBFC to compel Internet Service Providers to block websites that don’t comply with age verification.

Ancillary services – such as payment providers or advertisers – will also be forced to stop providing services to these sites. The Government has confirmed that the term “ancillary services” can include any service that facilitates a non-compliant publisher, including social media platforms such as Twitter.

This would mean that a Twitter account that links to a non-compliant porn site could be blocked to UK users. However, accounts from BBFC compliant sites won’t be blocked and will be able to post pornography to their Twitter feeds even if under 18s can see it.

Executive Director Jim Killock said:

“The Government started with age verification, moved onto web censorship and now wants to block Twitter accounts.”

“While these proposals are damaging for free speech, they are also absurd. Some Twitter accounts could be blocked for being associated with a porn site while others will be freely able to share pornography to Twitter users of any age.”

It has been estimated that one in every thousand tweets is porn.

Notes to Editors

From the Digital Economy Bill second reading

Lord Ashton of Hyde Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Culture, Media and Sport): “The Government believe that services, including Twitter, can be classified by regulators as ancillary service providers where they are enabling or facilitating the making available of pornographic or prohibited material. This means that they could be notified of commercial pornographers to whom they provide a service but this will not apply to material provided on a non-commercial basis.”

Baroness Benjamin: “I was particularly delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Shields, confirmed to the Lords Communications Committee on 29 November that: “The Bill covers ancillary services. There was a question about Twitter. Twitter is a user-generated uploading-content site. If there is pornography on Twitter, it will be considered covered under ancillary services”.

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