Rishi Sunak faces a new rebellion against online porn age verification

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces another rebellion from members of his Conservative Party who want to toughen up legislation so that websites are forced to introduce tougher age controls to prevent children from accessing pornography.
A series of amendments being drafted for the long debate Online security bill will propose that all pornographic websites implement age verification systems within six months of its entry into force. It was the latest pushback from lawmakers following a planned rebellion by Tory MPs earlier this month that prompted Sunak give in to demands from Big Tech executives to be jailed if they don’t remove harmful content.
The Online Safety Bill, designed to protect children when using the internet, is due to begin its passage through the upper house of review, the House of Lords, on Monday.
The new amendments, likely to be debated at the end of February, will require adults to prove they are over 18 using strict forms of age verification already used for online gambling, for example by uploading an ID card or credit card details. This can be done through a third-party tool to ensure that a person’s identity is not directly tied to the porn site, which is a more privacy-friendly approach.
“What we need is an emphatic timeline and a clear commitment to mandatory age verification.” James Bethel, said a conservative peer who oversees the amendments in an interview on Tuesday. “The current arrangements are a kumbaya aspiration that leaves too many loopholes open, no enforcement and no timetable.”
Other age verification approaches, including the use of software that estimates a person’s age by analyzing their face through a webcam or phone camera, do not require identification. OnlyFans is already taking this approach using software created by Yoti.
While the government argues that legislation must remain general to allow it to keep up with changing technology, Bethell insists that pornography is so harmful to children that it requires immediate legislation.
This is not the first time that makers have attempted to introduce age controls for adult-only sites. The Digital Economy Act 2017 had provisions on age verification, but these were scrapped by the government before being implemented.

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