back to article UK.gov to press ahead with online smut checks (but expects £10m in legals in year 1)

The UK government is bracing itself to face legal challenges when it implements controversial smut age check rules, and has said it could cost up to £10m in the first year alone. The plans to require online porn providers to check users are over 18 before granting them access to the site have been in the offing since 2017, …

      1. Teiwaz

        Re: Government doesn't want a repeat of the Labour vote loss

        Both eclipsed by the Chelsea flower show though. We know what really matters.

        I always thought that 'institution' was a cover for something nefarious.....

        What are the real 'flowers'?

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems there are so many loopholes that it isn't going to achieve anything worthwhile. The playground grapevine will soon promulgate evasions and leaky xxx content. The more difficult it is intended to become - then the more kids will go to greater lengths to find it. Education is the answer - so it is no longer seen as "forbidden fruit".

    An 18+ threshold is not going to help 16+ kids who are legally allowed to have sex - with blindfolds? If they are old enough for the very adult responsibilities of marriage - then why can't they be considered responsible enough to handle xxx material if they wish?

    1. h4rm0ny

      It will achieve one thing. It will push those seeking soft porn and normal porn to rub shoulders with those trading in the more hard corn and violent porn.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        ...hard corn and violent porn

        Mindbleach please!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yea! I cracked a tooth chewing on that hard corn.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          hard corn

          As in, “barley legal teens”?

          1. PhillW

            Not as pervy as running through the wheat fields though!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "[...] hard corn."

          Is that what is used for the game of cornholing?

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      You're missing the entire point of the legislation. It isn't supposed to stop children finding porn at all; it is supposed to appease the neo-Puritan nitwits who think that anything pleasurable is bad and seek to control everyone else's lives, presumably to make them as miserable as their own existences.

      Said neoPuritans generally don't have much of a grasp of technology, so a gormlessly stupid law that is easily circumvented is all that is necessary to convince them that Something Has Been Done.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "supposed to stop children finding porn"

        So they never checked under the mattress? That's where I found all my porn when my parents were out - I always put it back where I found it.

  2. macjules
    Black Helicopters

    Traceable access Logs?

    ... content providers should keep logs of access for a period of six months to a year to guarantee the BBFC could trace “every age verification to its original source”. Of course, Ageify is developing such a solution and is "ready to showcase it whenever needed”.

    I can just see the round-robin household letters where the BBFC demands to know who accessed www.kardashianswithdonkeys.com on such and such a date, just because they have a record of that IP in their access.log files.

    Perhaps Capita might get the contract to enforce access ...

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Traceable access Logs?

      "...who accessed <a href="www.kardashianswithdonkeys.com">link</a> on such and such a date, just because ..."

      FTFY. (At least, I almost did. At the last minute I had a change of heart for the benefit of those readers whose browsers have an aggressive pre-fetch. We wouldn't want anyone to end up in the wrong databases now, would we?)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone tell me the difference between a pornographic image on social media and one on a porn site? Also what difference would that make to someone under 18?

    There's something off about this, do any politicians have their fingers in any of these pies?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      I've not seen a proper definition of porn either. How much nudity do you need, or is it just what they do? One man's sex-scene is another man's outrageous porn.

      Are we saying the 18 rated violence is ok?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's a good point, what if I get off on spatulas, are they going to block kitchen utensil websites as well?

        1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

          I think the spatulas would need a little context. if the site is clearly designed to let people get their rocks off, then it might be covered. If it's just a site to sell kitchen utensils, it'd be fine. If they just banned everything that might get people a little excited, that would mean Amazon is fucked. Literally, probably.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            "If they just banned everything that might get people a little excited, that would mean Amazon is fucked."

            Wikipedia, too, if anyone bothers to look. There are some very "not safe for school" pages there and some of the "external links" are perhaps too relevant.

            But then, it's an encyclopedia. It also has some pretty gruesome stuff in some of the history articles. (Rightly so, IMHO, since there are definitely bits of history that we don't want to repeat.)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Agreed.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2017

      2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        There are already legal definitions of porn, that are used as the basis for (amongst other things) the film and video ratings system, and the obscene publications act. They'd likely use those.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >Can someone tell me the difference between a pornographic image on social media and one on a porn site

      The government would look mad if they censor that photo of that girl in vietnam with naplam / without clothes, or ban pictures of starving naked babies in an African famine.

      The government doesn't want to look mad (allegedly)

      Therefore they need an exception

      1. Teiwaz

        >Can someone tell me the difference between a pornographic image on social media and one on a porn site

        Letting the social end off the hook is hobbling the entire stupid endevour into complete pointlessness. i'd expect the underage to be more likely to be affected by the random amateur stuff on social media than more dedicated sites.

        Encountering it on a dedicated site is more likely they've gone looking for it rather than just happened upon it. We're too much in danger of weeding out curiosity by making errant wanderings irrevocably life-changing on so many fronts.

        Deviant Art is currently killing itself with excessive censorship driving talent away.

        I'd up that indemnity if I were them, no matter what they intend to permit, they'll be bound to censure some educational or sexual helpline site at some point (which has happened before), same way they assured the underage would be treated as special cases over images, and that's gone wrong multiple times.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          deviantart

          devian tart? Isn't that a very broadminded Linux distro (although some things are, obviously, beyond the pale)?

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Ban violent porn!

      Let's start with the Venus de Milo, poor girl with her arms chopped off and about to lose her skirt.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, as per the standard, its turning into a cluster fuck of epic proportions which will end up meaningless unless things like VPN's and the like are banned in the name of protecting the children.

    1. h4rm0ny

      unless things like VPN's and the like are banned in the name of protecting the children.

      Shhhh! Don't give away stage two!

      EDIT: Seriously, that really is stage two. First, make porn illegal under the right circumstances (i.e. without verification of identity - the only way you can check someone's age). Then say "people are still able to access porn illegally. How can we stop this?" It's not that I'm pro-porn (though it's people's right if they wish). It's that I'm anti- Government having the tools to destroy privacy.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        They can just do what France did and ban encryption.

        1. hmv

          I don't encrypt. Just because I throw around large amounts of random numbers doesn't mean I use encryption.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Just because I throw around large amounts of random numbers doesn't mean I use encryption."

            Ah - you must work for Bojo or Moggs.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        things like VPN's and the like are banned in the name of protecting the children.

        I'm afraid this is quite possible, if the VPN usage were to jump considerably. At the moment, it is a very much "niche" product (in terms of figures, i.e. number of VPN users v. number of all internet users). But if our benevolant masters feel those numbers suddenly surge, they will take action. And banning / supervising one by one, "extremist content", "pirated content", now "filthy content" might have this effect on people to reach out for VPN. Obviously, as it's a paid-for service, usually, current generation will find it hard to stomach to pay a couple of squid, so VPN might (MIGHT) be safe from "regulating" for a couple of years. But in general, yes, give "them" enough excuse, and it will go, in the name of democracy with "voluntary registration for VPN access". I don't know what they're going to do about those robot-roaches that carry miniature capsules to the recipient via sewage system but hey, let's not ban those yet until they become real...

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          Re: things like VPN's and the like are banned in the name of protecting the children.

          "And banning / supervising one by one, "extremist content", "pirated content", now "filthy content" "

          Don't forget the most damaging banned category of all; esoteric content.

          It was under Camerons watch that the list of things-to-be-banned was first created and the contents of that list has not really changed much since. Esoteric is a very broad category of things, roughly defined as things that are not in the mainstream, but it allows for the blocking of websites of all kinds; alternative religions, conspiracy sites, BDSM discussion forums, and, perhaps most importantly, alternative political views. Pretty much its carte blanche to ban any website on the basis of "we don't like this because its not our version of 'normal'".

          https://www.change.org/p/uk-prime-minister-david-cameron-stop-the-unnecessary-censorship-of-esoteric-websites-and-web-forums

      3. chris121254

        It's not illegal without verification of identity at least viewing is not.

    2. Stork

      Isn't a clusterfuck quite appropriate in this case?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thin end of the wedge

    >“The focus of the legislation should be pornographic websites, rather than popular social media platforms on which pornographic material is only a small part of the overall content.”

    Remember: "Focus" != "limit"

    > the likes of Twitter and Facebook can be asked to remove their services from the non-compliant sites

    Surely Twitter and Facebook are sites. I'm guessing this means they should block the accounts, in the UK at least. They won't do anything until they're compelled by law.

    > the government’s purported aim of protecting children from stumbling across porn online

    I doubt anyone "stumbles" over a dedicated porn site, they go in search of it. The kiddies might stumble across porn on sites they already use, like Twitter. So it won't even make a dent in the problem it claims to solve.

    > This will be a welcome move for those who feared further creep of state control of the web, and the spectre of a regulator being able to require an ISP to block Twitter.

    No it isn't welcome at all. This is the thin end of the wedge. When the govt find this doesn't work they'll go further and the social media sites will eventually be on the target list... as will any site where you can post anything, including El Reg. That annoying Disqus company will be running all the forums. And since age ID often means full ID that scope will creep too. It'll be well supported too because it's Jess Phillips and co's preferred solution to attempt to stop all online abuse.

    1. chris121254

      Re: Thin end of the wedge

      Unlikely Disqus company will be running all the forums or the sites where you can post anything are going to blocked.

      And you wont be force to use a ID to use the internet.

  6. charlieboywoof
    WTF?

    I am a lobster

  7. JeevesMkII

    One third porn?

    So if I started Dave's Kitten Emporium (also featuring hardcore smut) and uploaded two videos of cute kittens to every one of sex I'd be exempt from the regulations?

    Are reddit going to have to calculate just how much of its content is porn, and do comments count as not-porn?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One third porn?

      I saw an adult performer recently discussing whether more than 2/3 of her work being plot made it okay.

    2. justAnITGuy

      Dave's Kitteh Porn?

      Seems a reasonable enough stretch to me.

    3. robert_m

      Re: One third porn?

      Shouldn't that be "Dave's Pussy Emporium"?

      1. cbars Silver badge

        Re: One third porn?

        with the amount of javascript, cookies and crufty HTML on most sites. I don't think there are any sites on the internet that can be classed as 'pr0n'

    4. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: One third porn?

      Technically if just the fleshy bits are porn, then as long as the image/video is not zoomed in too much then it's very unlikely that it will be 2/3 porn. For a video, is the measure per frame or overall? So would a 10 second blah, blah, blah, warning or advert at the beginning and/or end of an online video mean average out?

    5. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: One third porn?

      I'm hoping porn sites will start carrying amusing cartoons and interesting articles to read like good old-fashioned printed mags did.

  8. Herring`

    I've not tried Opera for a while, but doesn't that come with a free VPN? Even if it's a bit crap, at least grot will be freely available without ID. I have my own VPN solution - for research purposes - but for non-techies, it could make that browser quite popular.

    I wonder how the security services feel about a mass take-up of VPNs in the general population.

    Also I wonder when they are going to start advertising jobs at the BBFC for classifying websites. You could be fired for not browsing porn.

    1. theModge

      VPNs

      Firstly from times when I work with only "slightly" tech people it seems VPNs are a fairly well known solution for general piracy, so there's no reason why they wouldn't think to put them to use for porn. As this is rolled out I imagine the knowledge only spread; soon every child in the playground will be using their mates dad's VPN for their porn needs (because what 14 year old can afford a decent VPN?).

      Combine this with the prevalence of Tor for the procurement of all ones black market pharmaceutical needs (again, even amongst by people who work far from the tech sector) and soon every last one of us will look like a terrorist as far as GCHQ is concerned. So many of their potential employees will have used one or both of these things it will be literally impossible for them to recruit enough people to do the spying.

      1. }{amis}{
        Go

        Re: VPNs

        "because what 14 year old can afford a decent VPN?"

        Who said anything about a decent vpn there are plenty of crappy ones out there that will do and that's before you even mention the TOR network.

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: VPNs @theModge

        "soon every last one of us will look like a terrorist as far as GCHQ is concerned."

        We're already all terrorists according to GCHQ, NSA, etc.

      3. Dr Dan Holdsworth
        FAIL

        Re: VPNs

        Opera Mobile has or had a free VPN solution. Even if that has gone, plenty of new ones which can be used to surf porn (and which also serve up adverts in order to fund themselves) will spring up, along with a crop of malicious VPNs which infect your hardware with viruses.

        The kids won't care, just so long as they can get their jollies.

      4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: VPNs ...... Beware ..... Some are for Pirates

        Some VPNs allow one to select your "new" ip address as if from another nation.

        So if in Spain, and using a VPN service allowing one to choose use of a spoofing UK ip address, can one reasonable expect to be able to access BBC iPlayer programs on the sunny Costa Blanca?

        And whenever BBC iPlayer returns its ..... Not available in your foreign location ..... is the VPN a fraud?

  9. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    All this is a fine plan. As long as I am able to use the personal details of my local member of parliament to "prove" that I am 18 or over. Unless they voted against this daft and useless legislation, however given the idiocy of party politics, doubtful.

    1. ivan5

      +10

      Excellent idea.

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