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Age-verification of online pornographic services

Under the Digital Economy Act, all online commercial pornography services accessible from the UK will be required to carry age-verification tools to prevent children from seeing content which isn’t appropriate for them. 

The new legislation is an important step in making the internet safer for children.

The Government has designated the BBFC as the age-verification regulator because of our acknowledged expertise in assessing and classifying content, including pornographic content, and our longstanding experience of online regulation.

The Act does not require personal identification, but proof of age.

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, is available here.


Why is age-verification being introduced?
As a society we put protections in place for our children until we judge they are old enough to understand and deal with the world on their own. In the offline world we wouldn’t let children have free and unsupervised access to pornography. Yet children today are increasingly living their lives online, and those same protections are not in place. Age-verification for online pornography is a logical next step to help make the internet a safer place for children.

Age-verification online is not new.  Age-verification solutions are already in place for UK hosted pornographic VOD services and other age-restricted products and services.

How will it work?
Age-verification means that adults must demonstrate that they are 18 or over before accessing online pornography. Age-verification technology is not new and is already in place for UK hosted pornographic VOD services and other age-restricted products and services. There are a range of methods for verifying whether someone is 18 or over and we expect to see a number of solutions offered by providers to give people different ways to verify their age.

This is not about stopping adults from watching pornography that is legal, it is about making the internet a safer place for children.

All online pornography accessed from the UK, even content hosted abroad, will be required to carry age-verification.

What exactly has the BBFC been asked to do?
The BBFC was formally designated as the regulator for the age-verification of online pornography on 21 February 2018.

Our job is to ensure that providers of commercial online pornography have in place age-verification controls so children cannot normally access it. 

Will it be effective?
We are confident that age-verification will have a big impact on ensuring pornography is no longer just one click away for children. As the regulator, we have been given a specific task, but this is part of a bigger picture response. Others have key roles to play including parents, sex education taught in schools, and children’s charities.

Why you?
The BBFC is an independent, non-profit organisation, which has specialised in assessing what content is legal and age-appropriate for more than 100 years, with the safety of children as one of our key objectives. Our expertise in assessing and classifying content includes pornographic content and longstanding experience of online regulation.

Why has enforcement of the new age-verification law been delayed?
The BBFC was designated as the age-verification regulator under Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 on 21 February 2018. We have made available the draft Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements and draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers for public consultation. The deadline for responses is 23 April 2018. We will consider and publish responses before submitting final versions of the Guidance to the Secretary of State for approval. The Secretary of State is then required to lay the Guidance in parliament for formal approval. We support the government's decision to allow a period of up to three months after the Guidance is formally approved before the law comes into force, in order to give industry sufficient time to comply with the legislation.

What about privacy?
The BBFC is working closely with the ICO to ensure that pornographic services and age-verification providers are fully aware of data protection legislation enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

There are a number of age-verification solutions which have been developed, or are in development. The key focus of these age-verification solutions is on establishing proof of age rather than identification of the individual. All age-verification providers are expected to comply with data protection legislation, which is enforced by the ICO. (More information is available on the ICO's website.)

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