French Parliament Agrees to Age Verification Requirement

The French Parliament unanimously agreed in July 2020 to introduce an Age Verification (AV) requirement aimed at preventing minors from accessing pornographic websites.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, had made a commitment months ago to implement such a system.

According to news site Politico, Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet service providers and the adult movie industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don’t have access to pornographic content. The new French law, gives sites discretion to decide how to perform age verification. Requiring users to enter a credit card number seems to be one of the most popular options, the news site reported.

In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply, sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order, if the site does not comply within 15 days after a first warning from the audiovisual regulator CSA, the regulator will be able to ask the Paris Court of Justice to send an order to telecom operators to block the access to these sites from France.

Australia moves one step further to introducing online age verification

The Australian parliamentary committee has compiled a report that recommends creating an “e-safety commissioner” in order to develop a procedure for mandatory age verification (AV) within the next 12 months, making it mandatory for Australian citizens to submit to an identity verification service run by the federal government.

The report, entitled ‘Protecting the Age of Innocence,’ was issued by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in Canberra.

According to sources Australia’s AV procedure would involve minimal retention of personal information, so as to not create a honeypot of sensitive data and the retained data must be stored securely, but the committee did not recommend using a facial recognition service under development.

Additionally, the committee recommended that more regulation could be considered to capture social media sites, and did not rule out potentially bringing back mandatory internet filtering

Committee members acknowledged the U.K.’s stalled efforts at AV and called for a further review of the issue, observing the public may not trust a system that could potentially increase risks and have unintended consequences around data security and privacy.

View a PDF of the parliamentary committee report here.

German parents want a good age verification system to protect children online

Germany is looking at safeguarding children who are viewing online content and social media, which could also include age verification to protect them from online pornography. 

A recent survey published by Germany’s children’s rights organization Kinderhilfswerk (DHKW) states that that are not enough safeguards for children on social media, video and games portals, with 55% of parents saying that their children had been hurt by ‘excessive’ consumption, mobbing, violence and pornography.

93% of parents want harsher penalties for domestic and foreign platforms under Germany’s child protection laws and 97% said that a good system of age verification was important in the choice of social media services, online content and games for their children. 88% said they scanned for age suitability for films, apps, games and streaming services, when overseeing their children’s digital consumption usage.

Only 37% said that they knew who to consult about negative experiences and only 66% were inclined to consult prosecutory services, notably the police.

Late last year, Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey submitted a draft “juvenile media protection” bill. Katja Mast, deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary party, told the German news agency DPA that such a modernization was agreed within the coalition Government. Giffey’s bill will be submitted to a Bundestag parliamentary debate before Summer 2020.

DHKW president Thomas Krüger, commented, “We need a comprehensive system of child and juvenile media protection orientated around the real usage behaviors of children and teenagers. Providers of messenger services and video platforms are insufficient.”

The UK Government announces new draft plans for age verification

On 16 October 2019, the UK Government announced that age verification for adult websites is being absorbed into a wider Online Harms Policy. This will be included in a new Government bill and as a consequence the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification will not be enforced for the time being.

The reason for this change is because the UK Government wants to deliver a more fully encompassing way to protect children online. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms. The new draft for the Online Harms Bill is due for publication in late Spring 2020.

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, released this statement:

“Protecting children is at the heart of our online harms agenda, and is key to wider government priorities. Going online can be beneficial for children, who use the internet for connecting with peers, to access educational resources and for entertainment. However, the government is concerned about the prevalence of adult content online, which is easily accessible to children, and believes it is vital that children are protected from accessing inappropriate, harmful content.

The government published the Online Harms White Paper in April this year. It proposed the establishment of a duty of care on companies to improve online safety, overseen by an independent regulator with strong enforcement powers to deal with non-compliance. Since the White Paper’s publication, the government’s proposals have continued to develop at pace. The government announced as part of the Queen’s Speech that we will publish draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that our policy aims and our overall policy on protecting children from online harms are developed coherently in view of these developments with the aim of bringing forward the most comprehensive approach possible to protecting children.

The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.

The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe. We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.”

Age Verification is once again delayed in the UK as it morphs into something much more comprehensive. AgeGO’s technology continues to provide age verification for online businesses and is currently expanding its offering for other verticals outside of adult including gambling, tobacco, vaping, weapons, knives, chemicals, fireworks, etc. Additionally, several countries are also interested in instigating online age verification for adult content and AgeGO is investigating new potential markets in Spain, Poland, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.

  

Research commissioned by the BBFC shows children and teens are stumbling across pornography from an early age

New research commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC.)  The report revealed that children and teenagers are watching and stumbling across pornography from an early age – in some cases as young as seven or eight.

As the designated Age-verification Regulator, and in preparation for entry into force, the BBFC has commissioned this benchmarking research to report back to parliament on the effectiveness of this new regime.

2,344 parents and young people participated in the research, which was carried out by Revealing Reality. In the online survey, more than half (51%) of 11 to 13 year olds reported that they had seen pornography at some point, rising to 66% of 14-15 year olds.

The majority of young people’s first time watching pornography was accidental, with 62% of 11-13 year olds who had seen pornography reporting that they stumbled across it unintentionally. Children described feeling “grossed out” and “confused”, particularly those who had seen pornography when they were under the age of 10.

The report also demonstrated a discrepancy between parents’ views and what children were actually experiencing. Three quarters (75%) of parents felt that their child would not have seen pornography online. But of their children, more than half (53%) said they had in fact seen it.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said: “Pornography is currently one click away for children of all ages in the UK, and this research supports the growing body of evidence that it is affecting the way young people understand healthy relationships, sex, body image and consent. The research also shows that when young children — in some cases as young as seven or eight years old — first see pornography online, it is most commonly not on purpose.”

Most children and parents interviewed believed that age-verification would prevent children from accidentally seeing pornography at a young age, and would potentially delay the age at which they are exposed to it.

83% of parents surveyed agreed that there should be age-verification controls in place for online porn. The research also showed that young people want age-verification – 47% of children felt age-verification was a good idea, with 11-13 year olds more in favour than older teenagers.

David Austin added: “It’s very encouraging to see that there is so much public support for age verification. We know that age-verification is not a ‘silver bullet’, nor should it be seen in isolation, but alongside other measures, such as education. However, age-verification significantly reduces the risk of young children stumbling across online pornography by accident as they do today. The research findings today have shown that parents and importantly, young people and children, want and need there to be stronger controls in place. ”

The report also looked into the effects of pornography on young people. 41% of young people who knew about pornography agreed that watching it made people less respectful of the opposite sex. Girls in particular spoke of their fear that aggressive depictions of sex would be seen as ‘normal’ by young male viewers of pornography, and accordingly copied in real-life sexual encounters.

The UK Government has appointed the BBFC as the Age-verification Regulator because of our long and proven experience in classifying films, videos, websites and more, and our knowledge of online regulation. The BBFC continues to work with Government to make the UK the safest place for children to be online.

The introduction of age-verification in the UK was delayed from 15 July 2019 to allow notification of the BBFC’s Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements to the European Commission under the Technical Standards and Regulations Directive. Once the standstill period under the EU TSRD is complete, the Guidance will be laid in Parliament, before entry into force.

Visti the BBFCs website for more information.

Australia is now considering age verification for adult content sites

An Australian Parliamentary committee is currently investigating how to make porn websites verify that Australian users are over 18 years of age, in a move that looks similar to the UK age verification system.

The committee will examine how age verification works for online gambling websites, and then see if that can be applied to porn sites. Australia’s strict classification regime would mean the vast majority of adult websites would be in the focus of this inquiry.

According to the inquiry’s terms of reference, the committee will examine whether such a system would push adults into unregulated markets, whether it would potentially lead to privacy breaches, and impact freedom of expression.

The committee has specifically been tasked to examine the UK’s version of this system as covered in the UK Digital Economy Act 2017.

AgeGO will update you when more information becomes available.

UK online gambling operators are required to verify the age and identity of their customers

The Gambling Commission has introduced new rules that strengthen the requirements for online gambling operators to verify the age and identity of their customers. The Commission states that in the UK the age and identify verification checks should be requested to customers before being able to place a bet or play at an online casino, including free play slot games. These changes took effect from 7th May 2019.

 

Who does this apply too?

The new requirements on age and identity verification apply to any operator that is offering remote gambling through their licence. This will include Casino, Bingo and Betting operators. A small number of lottery operators that provide online scratch card or instant win games will also be affected.

Previously online gambling operators were allowed to take up to 72 hours to carry out age verification checks. Unverified users could then gamble during this time period but could not withdraw any winnings until after their age was verified. The new rules will ensure that operators verify customers ages and identities faster, preventing underage gambling and protecting vulnerable players.

 

How does it work?

Operators must verify the age of the player before allowing access to their site. Unverified users won’t be able to deposit any funds into their account, use any free-to-play games, or receive free bets or bonuses upon registering. These changes mean that a reduction in the time to prove a customers identity is required in order to maintain a frictionless onboarding journey, giving customers the fastest possible access to paid services.

The new legislation also requires licensed operators who offer online gambling channels to:

  • Verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble or deposit funds.
  • Ask for any additional verification information promptly.
  • Inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of:
    • The types of identity documents or other information that might be required.
    • The circumstances in which the information might be required.
    • How it should be supplied to the licensee.
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customer’s identities remains accurate.

After the UK Government asked porn publishers to verify the age of their end users, UK institution the Gambling Commission decided to update the age verification requirements in a move aimed at addressing the risk of children gambling, further helping operators “better prevent harm or detect criminal activity” and identifying ‘self-excluded’ customers who are trying to gamble. 

See the Gambling Commission’s report here.

UK Government to delay the introduction of the age verification law

The UK Government’s mandatory age verification scheme for accessing online pornographic content, originally set for launch 15 July, has been delayed.

Giving a statement in the House of Commons, digital minister Jeremy Wright explained that the government had failed to notify the European Commission of the age verification standards that it expects companies to meet. Not having done so means it can’t legally introduce the policy at this stage according to EU Law.

Wright said, “It has come to my attention in recent days that an implementation process was not undertaken for an element of this policy and I regret to say this will delay the commencement date, in the region of six months”.

Despite the delay, Wright said the UK Government was committed to the policy, “This is not a change of policy or a lessening of this government’s determination for these changes to come about. In the mean time there is nothing to stop responsible providers of online pornography from implementing age verification mechanisms on a voluntary basis and I hope and expect that many will do so.”

The minister also commented on the technical challenge of accurate online age verification that had been raised during the consultation on the law’s white paper. Wright said he has commissioned new guidance that will be published in the autumn regarding the use of technology to ensure children are protected from inappropriate content online.

In conclusion, Wright added, “Age verification for online pornography needs to happen, and I believe it is the clear will of the house and those we represent that it should, and in the clear interests of our children that it must.”

Despite the delay AgeGO recommends that online adult content websites should still contact the company with any questions they might have about age verification and how AgeGO can help them get prepared for the future introduction of the mandatory UK law.

More countries plan age verification to access adult sites

The UK’s age verification law will come into force on July 15th of this year. Many countries are following closely to see how successful this initiative will play out in the UK. Here’s an overview of which countries are thinking about or planning to introduce age verification in the future.

Spain

The limitation of online pornographic content online was included in the electoral programme of the newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez (Social Democrats). The goal of the new government is to implement a new strict age verification system for adult websites.

According to new research carried out by the Balearic Islands University polling 2,500 people aged between 16-29 showed that some children start to consume pornography at 8 with the average age for boys starting to consume pornography is 14 and 16 for girls. Mobile phones are the main point of access for sexual content, with 50% of young people admitting it is the device they most use to watch porn. Although “many have come across pornography unintentionally”, others start searching for images out of curiosity. The anonymity of consumers, the free access to unlimited content, the high quality of the video content, and the wide range of sexual practices (including abuses and illegal practices) portrayed in such websites are some of the factors that worry specialists most.

South Africa

Recently a discussion paper was published by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) which proposed a revision of existing online legislation to limit access to porn, including a default block on internet devices requiring age verification to bypass. According to its introduction, the 360-something-page document aims to identify gaps in the manner in which the law currently regulates and protects children from being exposed to pornography or from being used to create child sexual abuse material, and to serve as a basis for in-depth deliberation on the law reform needed to protect children and to test public opinion on the solutions identified by the Commission.

Most significantly (and, probably, most controversially), the discussion paper recommends that all devices (new and second hand) be issued with or returned to a default setting that blocks inappropriate content, with an opt-in possibility depending on proof of age of the buyer/user as being 18 and older.

Ireland

This year the Department of Communications launched a public consultation on a new law to regulate harmful content online. The results are currently being examined in preparation for the development of legislation with age verification being considered in the context of the forthcoming legislation.

Poland

MPs for the country’s Law and Justice party have put forward radical proposals to curtail access to porn websites. Research from the Integrated Prevention Institute shows that in Poland, 60 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls are first exposed to porn at the age of 11.

Other countries also investigating age verification laws are Sweden and France. AgeGO will keep you updated about any further developments.

 

AgeGO interviewed by Global Dating Insights

AgeGO’s product manager Jorge Bravo explains how the adult dating industry will need to implement age verification in the UK and how the AgeGO solution will work. Read the full interview here.