🎶 The Internet is really really great... 🎶

I do not watch much conventional TV so rarely see adverts, however I have noticed on the rare occasions I catch TV in another room, or radio in a car (I don't drive either), there appear to be adverts running to advise people of the dangers of entering personal details on the Internet.

I am not sure if these are public service adverts or run by a bank or what, but they are an important message. Checking the web site is secure, is the site you think it is, and why they are asking for details.

Always be wary of web sites asking for personal or banking details!

Except, of course, when it is a porn site, because they are being forced by UK law to ask for details to verify age, or link you to some age verification system that asks details, even when not purchasing anything from the site!

The Open Rights Group rightfully raise concerns over the age verification companies (here). There are also serious issues over competition for age verification services, possible monopoly which may price some sites out of the market, and the AV services run by the main porn site provider, so no real separation of identity from porn preferences.

This is bad, but for me the bigger issue is the number of scams that will be out there. If it becomes normal to have to enter personal details or bank details to prove your age then there will be no end of scam sites offering free porn, or simply redirecting from a fake site to a free site that does not ask after it gets details. They will quote, and even link to, the UK legislation and information sites I am sure, just to add credibility.

And when someone gets charged £10 for some dodgy age verification site, really, how many people will own up to being duped? Especially if the porn in question is even remotely embarrassing or "specialised". Though the issue is bigger than just random charges, that personal data then gets sold on a black market and exploited. Depending on the sites it may be used to blackmail people. Leaked data from actual sites has already led to suicides - this will be way worse.

And none of this "solves" the supposed social issue, if there is an issue to solve even. What we need is better sex and relationship education in schools, simple as that.

But, to add a slightly lighter note, don't forget, as Avenue Q have said...


  1. I can't imagine anyone with clue will ever give personal information to a porn site. Which of course means that all the porn sites will be outside the UK jurisdiction and not ask for any of that information.

    In any case, the whole "don't follow links in emails claiming to be from your bank" thing was blown out of the water years ago by the banks starting to send legitimate emails that are indistinguishable from the ones the phishers were already sending...

    1. The legislation contains administrative blocking provisions, permitting the “age verification regulator” to compel an ISP to block any non-compliant site, overseas or otherwise.

    2. Yes, but realistically that's going to be quite hard to enforce (I note the Pirate Bay is still around, despite repeated attempts to block it).

      As I work in the school internet filtering industry, I've got some idea about how much foreign porn there is - frankly, even if the main sites get blocked, there will still be plenty of easily accessible porn for people to choose from. It may well push people towards malware ridden sites though, so arguably isn't great for the safety of the population. I'm absolutely certain that this won't reduce the amount of under age porn consumption.

      I'm curious how the likes of Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, etc. will handle this - these sites do have the ability for users to tag content that they upload as "adult" or "nsfw", but in reality no one bothers and the sites don't do anything to enforce it.

      If this legislation forces "mixed content" sites that contain both porn and non-porn (such as Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) to do a better job of enforcing those flags, then we may yet benefit from it. However, I can't help feeling that the government would have been far better off dropping the whole age verification thing and instead requiring sites that host porn to insert categorisation headers that third party filtering systems could use.

    3. I suppose it depends on which bits you have in mind when you think about enforcement, and what "success" looks like.

      Asking many major ISPs to drop another few domain names into their existing filter is unlikely to be overly problematic, I'd have thought?

      Beyond that, it gets tricky, and the game of Whack-A-Mole continues. But I suspect that merely making it a speed bump — an extra hurdle, which will cause some to stumble — will be considered "good enough".

      (And how many VPNs will soon be promoting themselves on this basis, possibly even paying to advertise on sites in the run-up to the enforcement date?)

    4. We missed a perfect chance in the late 90s/early 00s, with PICS and its successors, to (a) mandate that browsers provide a way to respect PICS preferences, and (b) protect web site operators from prosecution if they were covered by their PICS proforma.

      Too late, now, of course.


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