'Government's Porn Block may not work' says Sunderland University professor

The Government’s so-called Porn Block has been labelled an “easy point-scoring political exercise” whose intended outcomes are not deliverable.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 18:00 pm
New restrictions on accessing porn in the United Kingdom have been delayed for a second time.

Professor of sexual cultures at the University of Sunderland, Clarissa Smith, fears the proposed restrictions – likely to be delayed for a second time this week – will instead trigger other consequences.

Professor Smith said: “Verification of adult content has not been well thought out, objections to the proposals were ignored even when they pointed out the difficulties of creating a workable system and, consequently, it has now been delayed.

Professor Clarissa Smith

“While most people agree that under-18s accessing pornography is not good, controls of this kind were unlikely to prevent inquisitive teens accessing content.” 

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Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright confirmed the impending postponement until the end of October, saying the Government had failed to tell European regulators about the plan.

The idea was that all pornographic websites would be required to have verification of a user’s age before they can permit them to view the website.

Enforcement would have been the responsibility of the British Board of Film Classification – the body responsible for setting age restrictions on films – with the power to require internet service providers (ISPs) or mobile network operators to block sites that don’t comply.

Professor Smith said: “This decision to create the block appears to have triggered by some very poor research which asked young people a series of very broad questions and then interpreted the results in such a way as to suggest that the majority of young people risked becoming ‘addicted’ to porn.

“That kind of scaremongering is never a good basis for legislation.

“But the reality is, regulating porn is an easy way to score points. In a political sense, you can be seen to be doing something and few people are going to stand up and tell you that you’re wrong.

“Yet, if we really are worried about young people ‘becoming addicted’, simply saying ‘you can’t look at this material’ is hardly a solution to that.

“Sexually explicit imagery is available on all types of platforms across the internet. Introducing age verification will not stop young people seeing it or seeking it out.”