UK’s controversial porn block plans officially canceled


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The UK has finally thrown in the towel on the ill-conceived, and as it turned out, ill-fated attempt to impose the “porn block” on internet users in the country.

The multi-year effort to legislate and implement this kind of restriction did little but attract criticism and even ridicule from politicians, activists, and observers, but also expose some technical limitations faced by this type of censorship.

The idea was contained in the Digital Economy Act and dates back to 2015. It was designed and marketed by the government as a way to prevent children from being able to view pornography online, but what it was shaping up to become was a way to undermine the online privacy and freedoms of adults.

As The Independent writes, the plan – an extraordinarily problematic idea to emerge in a democracy – aimed to mandate age verification for everyone accessing porn websites, including by asking users to provide credit card, passport, or driving license details, and even by implementing face scans.

Meanwhile, websites that failed to put in practice one of the age verification methods would face blocks at ISP level in the UK; alternatively, they would no longer be able to collect payments from customers.

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And now, after numerous delays, the porn block plan is officially dead. However, UK's Digital secretary Nicky Morgan, who made the announcement, also made sure to underline that the government intends to implement the Digital Economy Act objectives “through our proposed online harms regulatory regime.”

“This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care,” Morgan stated.

Among those disappointed with the decision must be those companies who make age verification tech, and who were gearing up to start selling their products to millions of websites.

Others dissatisfied with the decision are campaigners for the protection of children online, who said that access to pornographic material was harmful to them, and urged the authorities to find “a robust and effective” way to implement the policy.

But one of the problems with the plan has always been agnostic of whether or not anyone thought it was a good idea: it was, above all, a pointless one, since ISP blocks can be bypassed with the use of a VPN service.

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]