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    Age Checks on UK Porn Sites Against 'Free Speech' - UN Rapporteur

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    The battle between censorship and freedom of expression continues in Britain with a warning from the UN's free speech advocate over the UK's plans to make internet users confirm their age in order to access explicit pornographic material.

    David Kaye, the UN's special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has written to the government warning it that implementing such measures would be a "significant tightening of control over the internet."

    But the question remains, where do you draw the line on censorship and free speech when the access the state is trying to block is explicit online pornography from children?

    The UK government's department for culture, media and sport, defended the bill saying: 

    "These measures will ensure children have the same protections online as they do offline. There is no question of the government collecting data on viewing habits and we are in discussions with the Information Commissioner's Office to make sure data protection standards are complied with."

    A banner is seen during a demonstration against what protesters call porn censorship, across from the Houses of Parliament in central London
    © AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis
    A banner is seen during a demonstration against what protesters call porn censorship, across from the Houses of Parliament in central London

    But it's feared that if the UK's Digital Economy Bill is passed — which includes measures to control pornography and make certain sex acts illegal — a database of internet users' sexual preferences will be created.

    "I am concerned that the age verification provisions give the government access to information of viewing habits and citizen data," Kaye writes, before expressing his concern for how this data will then be shared across other government departments. 

    "Finally, I express concern at the cumulative effect of the digital economy bill and the Investigatory Powers Act, [also knows as the Snoopers' Charter]. Together, these two pieces of legislation constitute a significant tightening control over the internet in the UK."

    "Identity disclosure requirement in law allow authorities to more easily identify persons, eradicating anonymous expression… which has been one of the most important advances facilitated by the internet."

    ​Kaye has branded the bill "insufficient" and that it "unduly interferes with the rights of freedom of expression and privacy."

    Meanwhile, children's charities that welcome the Digital Economy Bill believe that youngsters need protection from explicit material and that the state is obliged to provide it.

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    free speech, pornography, legislation, children, censorship, sex, Britain, United Kingdom
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