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    A Sense of Relief? UK Digital Minister Apologises for Porn Block Delay

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    The age verification system to be set up by the UK government is likely to be one of the most expansive among Western countries, creating a sense of unease among those who believe that it is not the government’s business to regulate the public’s access to adult pornography.

    The UK’s Digital Minister, Margot James, has said that she is “sorry” for an unexpected six-month delay on a “porn block” to be implemented by the government in an effort to stem “harmful” online content.

    Miss James reportedly told the BBC of the block’s delay that, “I’m extremely sorry that there has been a delay. I know it sounds incompetent.”

    “Mistakes do happen, and I’m terribly sorry that it happened in such an important area,” Miss James reportedly added.

    The block was due to kick into action on Monday, July 15, and when eventually implemented, will require websites where more than a third of the content is pornographic to verify that users are over the age of 18 before they can view or use any of the websites information.

    ​According to reports, the British Board of Film Classification will be initially tasked with overseeing the age checks, and will be given the authority to block websites that fail to comply with the new rules from internet service providers, and may even be able to issue fines of up to £250,000.

    While it is not yet entirely clear exactly what form the age verifications system will take, it has been widely suggested that options being seriously considered include users having to upload copies of identification, such as a passport or driving licence.

    As it stands, it is unclear whether the delay will go beyond the currently stated six months. Moreover, it is not entirely clear what has caused the delay, with some reports citing an “administrative error.”

    While there are no doubt many Brits out there who will feel somewhat relieved that access to pornographic content will go unimpeded for at least another six months, there are those who find the delay a source of frustration. Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chairwoman of the UK Health and Social Care Committee has been quoted by the BBC as saying that, “I think it’s an outrage.”

    “It’s another example of the government failing to protect children and young people. I’m afraid everything in this place is being kicked down the road because of the delays caused by the leadership election and the Brexit process,” she reportedly added.

    The policy is part of a broader strategy by the UK government aimed at expunging the internet of what it rather ambiguously refers to as “harmful content.”

    Back in February, Miss James gave an interview in which she said that the government would take a “holistic” view of what constitutes harmful content, including terrorist recruitment propaganda, hate speech, racism, child grooming and content depicting suicide and self-harm.

    The government insists that the purpose of introducing the age verification on porn websites is to prevent young children from stumbling across adult content while browsing the internet. The government’s eventual aim, in the lofty words of Health and Social Care Minister Matt Hancock, is to make the UK the “safest place in the world” to be online.

    Yet, despite such grand promises, the very ambiguity of the what constitutes harmful content combined with the age verification requirements and the potential establishment of a watchdog to monitor the content of social media platforms, is likely to evoke accusations of government censorship among disgruntled online Brits. 

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    UK Government, block, Internet, Porn
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