Commonly known as ‘the porn block’, SCREENSHOT first reported on the age-verification law for commercial porn sites back in 2019, after it was passed as part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act and was initially expected to be in place by April 2018. Fast forward to 2022, and the porn law plans are still in motion, with new layers being added to it as we speak.
The proposed law will see individual British internet users required to hand over a form of identification—such as a passport, driving licence or credit card—to an age verification provider, which would then tell a website hosting porn that the user is over 18. At first, it only seemed to impact pornographic websites. But as most internet users know by now, NSFW content can also easily be found on Reddit and Twitter, where users don’t have to go through any thorough age verification.
The two platforms are among the few remaining mainstream social networks that continue to host large quantities of explicit adult material, which explains why Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr have managed to slip through the cracks so far. Facebook and Instagram already have strict bans on pornography, while Tumblr removed all adult material from its service in 2018.
Ministers said that social networks “where a considerable quantity of pornographic material is accessible” will have to conform to the same age verification rules as other commercial pornography websites. Outlets that fail to prove they have robust age checks could be fined 10 per cent of their global revenue by the media regulator Ofcom or risk being blocked altogether by British internet service providers.
Following that thought, The Guardian theorised how such a move could “leave Twitter and Reddit facing a choice of either verifying which British users are over 18 or finding a way to remove adult material from their services in the UK.”
The cost of age verification would be about 15 to 20p a person for websites, which could impact smaller platforms negatively. Furthermore, building trust with users about how their data is handled would be key to ensuring widespread adoption.
So, what do you say Reddit and Twitter? It looks like the ban is finally going to be put in place. Will you follow in Facebook and Tumblr’s footsteps or will you implement the age verification system to gatekeep explicit content?