The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

APPG Report: Age Verification for Adult Content Websites

Online Harms: Not Written Off, but Written Down

By Jayne Kirkham

CMF Board member and Clerk to the APPG for Children's Media and the Arts

Age Verification (AV) for commercial online pornography sites was passed into law in the Digital Economy Act 2017. It was a hard won amendment so you can imagine the dismay as the Government put back and put back the implementation, finally kicking it not only into the long grass, but right off the playing field. Their reasoning being, that it would be superceded by the forthcoming Online Harms Bill. There has been some fury at this. Politicians, the AV providers, children's charities all asking why a perfectly serviceable, sensible and effective piece of legislation has gone to waste.  So much so that the All Party Parliamentary Group For Children's Media and the Arts invited all interested parties to discuss what next in Westminster.  There was such a lot of interest, we were about to arrange a bigger room. Then the Covid-19 crisis swept everything aside. The meeting had to be cancelled.

However, APPG co-chairs Julie Elliott and Baroness Floella Benjamin both felt this issue too important to be ignored yet again.  Speakers and participants were invited to write what they would have said.  Submissions have been collated and are available as a PDF via email jaynekirkham@thechildrensmediafoundation or by download here.

We don't know how the Covid-19 crisis will end.  But with the nation in lock down and more dependent than ever on the internet, making sure that it is safe, especially for our young and our vulnerable, must be a Government priority.  Not just in word, but in deed - whether the tools already enshrined in law can be found in the long grass and used or whether the brand new Online Harms Bill is made bigger, better and with real bite, our children's safety online can't come soon enough.

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