Government to introduce new measures to keep children off porn sites, could force all users to register credit cards

The restriction will apply to any sites that 'contain pornographic material' and that would receive an 18 if they were formally rated

The Government is to force users of pornographic sites to identify themselves, in an attempt to keep children from using them.

Companies that run the websites will have to put checks in place to ensure that only adults are viewing them, or face having their sites shut down. Those that don’t comply could have advertising banned or be forced to have their pages unavailable in the country.

It isn’t clear exactly how the companies will verify the age of those visiting them. It could be that the sites force people to sign up with a valid credit card to ensure that they are 18 — something that already happens on gambling sites.

The Government says that the limit would not just apply to pornographic sites, but to any that "contain pornographic material" and would receive an 18 rating if they were formally classified.

But some have suggested that will lead to a crackdown on freedoms across the internet. Referencing the idea that pornography can be the “first freedom to die", law lecturer Paul Bernal said that the idea would normalise online ID checks for all.

Bernal also noted that the deal might eventually lead to foreign porn sites being blocked entirely, providing help to ones based in the UK that will be able to integrate the checks more easily.

The Government said that the new effort was part of its plans to keep children safe online.

“Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults,” said internet safety and security minister Baroness Shields.

“So we are delivering on our manifesto promise by launching this consultation today, which proposes we require companies providing this pornographic content to ensure they have safeguards in place to ensure those accessing their websites are over 18.”

The Government will consult on the new rules until 12 April.

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