The government recently announced new regulations which will require all adult entertainment websites accessed by UK users to be stricter with their policies, changing the way people access adult content on the internet.
The new Digital Economy Act will force all websites containing adult content to prove their users are over 18 years old before they grant access, which means all affected websites must enable age verification tools by April 2018. Companies not complying with the new regulations will face fines of up to £250,000 or being blocked by ISP’s.
Websites may well adapt similar systems to those used by online gambling companies, by asking users to provide credit card details (which can only be issued to people over the age of 18). This tactic has been used successfully by online betting sites since the Gambling Bill of 2004.
Protecting children from potentially damaging online content is at the forefront of the changes. Child protection groups have long been demanding legislation of online adult material to reduce the number of children affected. A recent NSPCC study stated that 65% of 15-16 year olds, and 48% of 11-16 year olds had seen sexually explicit videos online.
Despite the unarguable need to protect children from damaging content, privacy campaigners claim that these new regulations could spell problems. Adult content companies holding sensitive data about people using them exposes the users to risks from online hackers and fraudsters. As we saw with the Ashley Madison hacks in 2015, sensitive data regarding use of certain sites can be a highly lucrative bonus for criminals.
Adult sites from anywhere in the world will be required to show age verification tools for them to be accessed from the UK or websites will face being blocked by ISP’s. Adult content websites have just 6 months to comply with the new rules and should be preparing for the changes now.