Survey finds 80 per cent of adults want age verification controls on online porn

An age limit of 18 should be applied to online pornography, a new poll has found, with eight in ten UK adults also calling on the UK Government to implement age verification controls to restrict access to adult sites.

The government is coming under increasing pressure to implement legislation that was approved by Parliament in 2017 to apply age checks and regulation of porn sites.

Part three of the Digital Economy Act was designed to compel commercial pornography websites to verify the age of visitors, to prohibit access by children. It also sought to establish a regulator to take action against any site showing illegal “extreme pornography which normalises violence against women”.

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However, the government has not yet implemented the law and campaigners are concerned a new Online Safety Bill will remove the age verification safeguards altogether.

A survey has found eight in 10 UK adults want to implement age verification controls for access to online pornography.

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The Savanta opinion poll for Christian charity, CARE, has found 81 per cent of adults agree “the government should implement age verification to protect children from all online pornography”, with 13 per cent disagreeing and 6 per cent saying they didn’t know.

Asked if there “should be an age limit of 18 years for access to online pornography”, 79.5 per cent agreed, while 14 per cent disagreed and 7 per cent said they didn’t know.

Commenting on the findings, chief executive of CARE Nola Leach said: “In recent weeks, parliamentarians, charities and women’s groups have urged the government to restrict access to online pornography sites by implementing age verification. This polling shows that the public overwhelmingly agrees.

“At present, children across the UK can access porn sites easily. When they do, they are exposed to a catalogue of vile, degrading, and violent content.

"Practically nothing has been done by legislators to prevent access to commercial sites.

“Worse than this, the UK Government is refusing to implement age verification measures approved by parliament in 2017 that are sitting on the statute book ready to be brought into force.

“After this study, the writing is surely on the wall for ministers. They must act in the interests of children and introduce this safeguard without delay.”

Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has also lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, which urges the UK Government to enforce part three of the Digital Economy Act.

“How we keep our children safe online should be an absolute priority, so the failure to implement this is a terrible reflection on the UK Government,” she said.

“Access to some of the most violent forms of illegal pornography normalises violence against women and girls at a young age, and will perpetuate the scandal of women in our society suffering abuse, violence and sexual attacks.

“The long list of those calling for the implementation should be a wake-up call that this legislation needs to be enacted and enforced immediately, and I wholeheartedly support this call to action.”

The plans to introduce a nationwide age verification system for online pornography was abandoned by the UK Government in 2019 following technical difficulties and concerns from privacy campaigners.

The government says its new Online Harms Bill will go further than the Digital Economy Act, giving the watchdog, Ofcom, powers to block access to online services – including social media platforms and search engines – which fail to do enough to protect children.

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