A Freedom of Information request to the DCMS has revealed that porn company MindGeek suggested that the BBFC should potentially block millions of porn sites if they didn’t comply with Age Verification requirements outlined in the Digital Economy Act.
MindGeek, who are also developing Age Verification technology, said that the Government’s plans to prevent children from seeing pornography would not be effective unless millions of sites could be blocked.
Notes made by the company and sent to the DCMS state:
“A greylist of 4M URLs already exists from Sky, but lets assume that’s actually much smaller as these URLs will I suspect, be page- level blocks, not TLDs. The regulator should contact them all within that 12 months, explaining that if they do not demonstrate they are AV ready by the enforcement date then they will be enforced against. “On the enforcement date, all sites on the greylist turn black or white depending upon what they have demonstrated to the regulator.”
MindGeek could stand to gain commercially if competitor websites are blocked from UK visitors, or if the industry takes up their Age Verification product.
Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:
“There is nothing in the Act to stop the BBFC from blocking 4.6 million pornographic websites. The only constraint is cash.
“This leaves the BBFC wide open to pressure for mass website blocking without any need for a change in the law.”
When giving evidence to the Public Bill Committee, the chief executive of the British Board of Film Classification, David Austin implied that only tens of sites would be targeted:
“We would start with the top 50 and work our way through those, but we would not stop there. We would look to get new data every quarter, for example. As you say, sites will come in and out of popularity. We will keep up to date and focus on those most popular sites for children.”
Notes to Editors
The Digital Economy Act 2017 obliges porn sites to verify the age of their users. Sites that fail to do so could be fined or blocked by Internet Service Providers.
Responses to ORG’s FOI requests are here.
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