Back when David Cameron was Prime Minister, he took advice from Patrick Rock (later revealed to be a a trafficker in images depicting the abuse of children) on how to stop children from seeing internet pornography.
The solution they arrived at was bananas: every adult service in the UK would have to verify the identity of every user they had, assuring themselves that anyone who tried to look at porn was over 18. As the unworkability of this idea became more obvious, the UK government tried several different tacks: banning porn altogether, deputising newsagents to verify the identities of would-be porn viewers and then doling out official pornography-access cards; etc. Not everyone involved with these proposals was a child pornographer; some of them were merely vicious, technologically illiterate bullies.
Now, with Brexit hanging over the country, food poverty and homelessness at record highs, the pound crashing, and CO2 emissions at crisis levels, HMG has finally found the political will to crack on with their "No sex, please, we're British," plan.
Starting July 15, all websites that offer pornography will have to verify their visitors' age, primarily one operated by the Canada-based pornography monopolist Mindgeek, owners of Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn, Brazzers, Digital Playground, Men.com, Reality Kings, and Sean Cody, and much, much more. Mindgeek will use credit-cards to validate users' ages, meaning that it will be producing a database of sexual kompromat, sortable by net worth, on every pornography-consuming person in the United Kingdom.
The British Board of Film Classification — the national movie censor board — will decide which sites will need to use "age verification" technology. British sites that do not comply will face sanctions, while offshore sites will be blocked by the national firewill, which the highly concentrated ISP sector is obliged to participate in.
Anyone who wants to evade this whole system (including kids) can simply use a VPN.
HMG claims that the proposal is supported by 88% of UK parents; their source for this is a company that pays people to take internet surveys.
At the moment, unless you're Facebook or Google, it's actually pretty hard to match up someone's real identity to their online behaviour. Unless, that is, you make people log in to your site with their real name, real email address and real credit card details – which is exactly what this legislation will force people to do.
And this database will be massive. Remember when Ashley Madison was hacked? It had to pay out $11 million in compensation to 33 million people. Pornhub, the world's most-visited porn website, had 64 million visitors per day in 2017, and the UK is its second biggest traffic driver. If this database was hacked, and those names exposed, the shame and humiliation would be terrible. Even if the risk is small, the consequences are so enormous you have to wonder why the information is being gathered at all.
Mo< Still, the government's got a quality team to run the programme. Right. Right?
Why the UK's porn block is one of the worst ideas ever [Rowland Manthorpe/Wired UK]