There is lack of balance on both sides
I spent some years in the ISP industry working on parental controls and anti-malware systems. These were not perfect, but they did help the ordinary user protect themselves and their children.
However, the internet's "chattering classes" presented a constant stream of objections based on the idea that the net should be completely free and unfettered and "no-one has the right to change that freedom". This is rubbish, and no-one was denying an individual the right to *have* that unfettered access, just *asserting* the right to use facilities to protect your children.
On the subject of age verification, if Facebook etc (and indeed the porn sites) were *required* to take, say, a credit card number as part of the signup, that would in itself prevent *most* kids from accessing Bad Stuff. You don't trust FB to keep your card details secure? Call the ICO. You don't trust government not to snoop on who is doing what? Write the law to *require* a court order before your details are released. Standard stuff. This alone would mean that not only would most underage porn access be blocked, but also hate speech, libel, and all the other crap that the social media platforms facilitate, would wither way as people realised that they lost their perfect anonymity. If you got slandered on FB, you have the right to ask the court to reveal the identity of the author, and the court can require FB to reveal it *only to you and the court*.
There should be an option where the social media platforms can offer limited access *without* taking ID - but this should be specifically limited so that such "junior" users do not have access to a wide range of topics, and cannot use a wide range of language. Don't let them kid you that they cannot do this.
This article then descends into the usual "throw the kitchen sink at the opposition" type of argument that the "chattering classes" uses: let's try and use any spurious argument we can think of to defend our god given right to say what we want whenever we want.
" Age verification is easily circumvented by any tech-savvy teen with a VPN" Really? if that teen didn't provide valid credit card (and hence address) details when he signed up, how will a VPN make it any easier for him to access the site and content?
Yes, there are risks of data breach. As there are with all places you enter PII - so any bit of online shopping, banking and so on. I trust Facebook less than almost anyone, but they are a legitimate company operating under well-proven laws in this respect. Giving them your home address, with suitable legal restrictions on what can be done with the information, does not increase your risk materially.
Encryption is another red herring: you can mediate the exchange between user and facebook any way you like - carrier pigeons - and the basic fact remains that if you have verified who you are the means of communication has no bearing on your rights and limits on what you can use it for.
An so on. The problem is that this "kitchen sink" approach makes government (who Don't Understand this stuff) go into more and more elaborate detail and spread a wider and wider net, and so ends up doing exactly what you don't want - trying to control everything, all the time, when that is not the actual requirement.
Just make sure users are identifiable, that the law controls who can access that identity, the SHUT THE F*** UP.
But from experience, comments like this are a total waste of time: the "chattering classes' are blinkered by their worship of an imaginary "net neutrality" and are incapable of listening or thinking rationally. So you will, by your actions, get exactly what you so earnestly want to avoid. Well done.
Finally: THIS is a form of social media. If someone thinks the above is personally objectionable or has other legal implications please ask El Reg to identify me to you, and we will discuss it in court. They can't of course: they don't know my name or address.