Parliamentarians will know that Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 (the Act) provides for the regulation, through age-verification, of online pornography with the primary purpose being the protection of children from pornographic content online. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has been confirmed as the regulator to oversee these measures, under guidance, yet to be confirmed. In order to ensure that the legislation is effective in practice, it is vital that the BBFC guidance provides the necessary clarity and coverage to ensure that the legislation is as effective as possible in protecting children.
The Digital Policy Alliance's Age Verification and Internet Safety Working (AVIS) Group has expressed serious concerns in the draft guidance as it applies to the protection of children, privacy and security, and in particular to the question of the extent to which Virtual Private Networks, search engines and social media platforms will be captured as ancillary service providers and held to account for pornography accessed by children via these paths. These concerns are fully explained in the briefing, which is intended as an authoritative statement on potential weaknesses in the current draft guidance, intended for submission to the Secretary of State for approval. We hope that these may be addressed and resolved in future debate.