New guidance from Ofcom has stated that UK websites and apps that host pornography and adult material, such as OnlyFans and PocketStars, must put in place strict age-verification processes or face severe financial penalties.
Platforms that have under 18 users but do not specialise in pornographic material or which ban adult content under the terms of their service, such as TikTok and Snapchat, will also be expected to put measures in place to protect younger users from harmful content, such as age-estimation techniques. Age estimation refers to methods that can estimate a person’s age, usually by algorithmic means.
The heavy fines are £250,000 or 5% of applicable turnover, whichever is greater, for breaches of regulations.
The Ofcom guidance states that the providers should:
Restrict access to adult sites. VSPs that host pornographic material should have robust age verification in place, to protect under-18s from accessing such material.
Have clear, visible terms and conditions which prohibit uploading content relating to terrorism, child sexual abuse material or racism and enforce them effectively.
Implement tools that allow users to flag harmful videos easily. They should signpost how quickly they will respond, and be open about any action taken.
Ofcom said it also expected the platforms to put in place registration processes and subsequent checks that are strong enough to significantly reduce the risk of child sexual abuse material being uploaded and shared on their platforms.
Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive, commented, “The platforms where these videos are shared now have a legal duty to take steps to protect their users. So we’re stepping up our oversight of these tech companies, while also gearing up for the task of tackling a much wider range of online harms in the future.”
The UK Government has stated its intention to push forward with it’s online safety bill which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny in parliament.