Porn age verification scheme delayed for third time

The government’s age verification scheme for porn websites is to be delayed for the third time – as revealed by Sky News last night.

Jeremy Wright, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, announced the postponement of the controversial scheme in parliament, just weeks before its planned launched.

Announcing a delay of around six months, Mr Wright blamed an “administrative oversight”, saying that he had learned in the last few days that “an important notification process was not undertaken for an element of this policy”.

Sky News reported that the government had failed to notify the European Commission when laying the regulator’s guidance in parliament in late 2018, undermining the legal basis of age verification.

Mr Wright apologised for the delay and promised to fix the mistake, saying he would bring the age verification back before parliament “as soon as possible”.

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The scheme was intended to go into action on 15 July.

This is the third delay for age verification, which has been plagued with difficulties since its inception.

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Campaigners argued it would enable widespread tracking of porn watchers’ identities and browsing habits, creating the potential for blackmail and online surveillance.

Other critics pointed out that the system would be easy to circumvent, and that the rules did not cover social media.

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Age verification providers reacted with frustration to the news of another delay.

Serge Acker, chief executive of OCL, which provides privacy-protecting “porn passes” for purchase at newsagents, told Sky News: “As a business, we have been gearing up to get our solution ready for July 15th and we, alongside many other businesses, could potentially now be being endangered if the government continues with its attitude towards these delays.

“Not only does it make the government look foolish, but it’s starting to make companies like ours look it too, as we all wait expectantly for plans that are only being kicked further down the road.”

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