To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to protect children from harmful online content prior to the coming into force of online harms legislation; and if he will take steps to bring into force the requirement for age-verification on pornographic websites prior to that legislation.
11 January 2021
The Government announced in October 2019 that it will not commence the age verification provisions of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 and instead deliver these protections through our wider online harms regulatory proposals.
Under our online harms proposals, we expect companies to use age assurance or age verification technologies to prevent children from accessing services which pose the highest risk of harm to children, such as online pornography. The online harms regime will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media, therefore covering the vast majority of sites where children are most likely to be exposed to pornography. Taken together we expect this to bring into scope more online pornography currently accessible to children than would have been covered by the narrower scope of the Digital Economy Act.
We would encourage companies to take steps ahead of the legislation to protect children from harmful and age inappropriate content online, including online pornography. We are working closely with stakeholders across industry to establish the right conditions for the market to deliver age assurance and age verification technical solutions ahead of the legislative requirements coming into force.
In addition, Regulations transposing the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive came into force on 1 November 2020 which require UK-established video sharing platforms to take appropriate measures to protect minors from harmful content. The Regulations require that the most harmful content is subject to the strongest protections, such as age assurance or more technical measures. Ofcom, as the regulatory authority, may take robust enforcement action against video sharing platforms which do not adopt appropriate measures.