Smut gazers today breathed a sigh of collective relief as UK government delayed controversial age verification checks for online porn – because the new regulator set up to oversee them still hasn't issued guidance.
The checks, which will require people to prove they are over 18 in order to view web-based filth, were meant to come into force in April but now may not be introduced until much later in 2018, possibly towards year-end.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the delay would allow the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) time to draw up and consult on guidance for porn-makers.
The BBFC was only approved as regulator at the start of February, and critics already voiced concern that the April timetable was too tight to allow pornographers to comply, especially when the regulator was yet to publish any guidance.
Government minister Lord Ashton was pressed on the time it had taken to appoint the regulator – let alone issue guidance – during a debate in Parliament last month, with peers saying that progress had not been "particularly satisfactory".
The BBFC's public consultation will begin later this month. It is hoped that the guidance will set out how the BBFC plans to police the space, detail what blocking those that don't comply will entail, and what the appeals process will be.
Parliament will then have to clear the guidance, after which DCMS said there would be "up to three months" before the law comes into force.
"It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year," DCMS said.
The news – which was slipped into a statement about progress made on implementing the government's Digital Strategy touting the winners of the government's 5G testbeds – was welcomed by critics, who say the policy wasn't fit for launch.
BREAKING NEWS: age verification postponed until the end of the year!— Pandora / Blake (@pandorablake) March 11, 2018
Anyone who hasn't installed age checks yet... congrats. You made the right call.
Glad @dcms and @bbfc have been listening when we tell them the policy is in no fit state to launch. https://t.co/Yp0ZbVIub7 pic.twitter.com/4oDcmZTtjr
IMPORTANT: Age Verification Delayed!— Myles Jackman (@MylesJackman) March 11, 2018
Please share this temporary victory for privacy and security to ensure pornography isn’t the canary in the coal mine of free speech: @DCMS @BBFC https://t.co/T4I0LrVFqxhttps://t.co/MuA3wXF02c
Among their concerns are that complying with policy could put small sites out of business, make very personal information a hack target and allow Pornhub owner MindGeek to expand its domination of the market through its age verification system AgeID.
The delay doesn't mean the government is rethinking its plan – it has a policy objective to "protect" children from seeing harmful content online.
It does, however, mean there will be more time for pornographers to comply with the policy – and possibly for competitors to develop alternative solutions to AgeID. It will also allow the people of Britain continue to watch naked adults frolicking online without setting up a VPN. ®