World's 1st age-verification system for online pornography delayed in the UK after administrative error

An opposition lawmaker said the government were "letting children down."

June 20, 2019, 10:24 AM

LONDON -- The implementation of the world’s first Age Verification Certificates for accessing online pornography in the U.K. will be delayed for up to six months after an administrative error.

In a speech to the U.K. Parliament on Thursday, Jeremy Wright, the government’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, told lawmakers he wanted to “apologize for the mistake.”

The Age Verification Certificates, or AVCs, were due to come into force for online pornographic websites on July 15, but Wright said the government failed to notify the European Commission of the proposed guidance on the “standards that companies need to comply with” regarding the new system, which they were required to do so under EU law.

“It has come to my attention in recent days that an important notification process was not undertaken for an element of this policy and I regret to say that this will delay the commencement date,” he said. “Upon learning of this administrative oversight I have instructed my department to notify this guidance to the EU and relay the guidance in Parliament as soon as possible.”

The delay to the legislation, which he said was “was to ensure children were protected from pornographic material they should not see,” would take about six months.

PHOTO: A stock photo of a warning on a porn site.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Government officials haven't yet explained exactly how AVCs would work, although they have said producers of pornographic material which could face massive fines or be banned from service providers if they don't comply. The government based the policy decision on polling data from YouGov that suggested 88% of U.K. parents with children younger than 18 believe age-verification technology should be used to curb access to adult content.

But the administrative failing was criticized by the opposition Labor Party lawmaker Cat Smith, who described the situation as a “shambles” that showed the government was “letting children down.”

In April, the digital rights organization Open Rights Group decried the AVC system as a "serious failing" for users' privacy and was introduced without proper public consultation.

"It's understandable why the government wants age verification on porn sites," Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, told ABC News. "However, they have refused to regulate AV for safety and privacy of customers. This is a serious failing and something they could fix immediately. Unfortunately, there was little public debate when the laws were passed."

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