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Government urged to apologise over further delay to age verification checks

The Government has been urged to apologise after a bureaucratic error resulted in a further delay to the implementation of age verification measures on pornography websites.

Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) stressed that the new timetable be set out “as soon as possible” after Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said that the move had been pushed back once again due a failure to notify the European Commission about certain aspects of the plan.

The tighter controls designed to protect young people from adult content online were due to come into force on 15th July, after already being delayed from April 2018.

“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,” Mr Wright told MPs.

“I expect that this will result in a delay in the region of six months.”
Responding to the latest delay, James Mildred, CARE’s communication manager, said: “This latest delay is deeply disappointing.

“That it is the result of a bureaucratic error is frankly astonishing. The Government must apologise for this fresh delay and set out a new timetable as soon as possible.

“We strongly support age-verification as a vital way of protecting young people, giving them the same protections online as they receive offline.”

The plans, which are said to be a world first, have been hit by a number of delays since being introduced as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, amid concerns about how checks would work and fears for user privacy.

Under the watch of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) as regulator, commercial pornography websites will be required by law to carry out ‘robust age verification checks on users’ or face having payment services withdrawn or being blocked for UK internet users.

The aim is to verify a person’s age in a number of ways, including using traditional forms of ID such as a credit card or passport, or by buying an over-the-counter card from shops where verification would take place face-to-face.

However, the BBFC has previously admitted that the changes are ‘not a silver bullet’ and that ‘some determined teenagers will find ways to access pornography’.

Picture: A child’s hands on the keys of a laptop keyboard. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).