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Pornography: Internet

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL13859, tabled on 3 March 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they made of the impact on children and young people of not introducing age verification for accessing commercial pornographic websites before they made the announcement that they would not be introducing such verification requirements.

Answered on

10 March 2021

The government will deliver the objective of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) to protect children from online pornography through the upcoming online safety legislation.

When taking the decision not to commence the relevant provisions in the DEA, the government concluded that there should be a coherent and comprehensive approach to protecting children online. This will be best achieved through the wider online harms proposals. 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 that children can currently access than the narrower scope of the Digital Economy Act, which did not include social media companies.

We are working at pace to develop the Online Safety Bill that will be ready this year. We are already working closely with Ofcom to ensure that the implementation period that will be necessary following passage of the legislation is as short as possible.

The reports on The Relationship Between Pornography Use and Harmful Sexual Behaviours were commissioned by a previous administration and are now available on gov.uk. The reports make it clear that there is not one single factor that leads someone to engage in harmful sexual behaviour, rather it is a combination of factors which interact with one another to differing effects on each individual. The literature review highlights that a direct causal link cannot be established between pornography and harmful sexual behaviour as this would require impractical and unethical study conditions (forced exposure to pornography).