April 17, 2019 / 3:42 PM / a month ago

UK says to become first country to check porn viewers' age

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom will become the first country in the world to demand age verification for people viewing pornography online when new checks come into force in three months’ time, the government said on Wednesday.

From July 15, commercial providers of online pornography will have to carry out age checks on users to ensure they are 18 or over, the government said.

Websites that break the new law risk having their payment services withdrawn or being blocked in Britain.

“Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online,” Britain’s minister for digital and creative industries, Margot James, said.

“The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content.”

The government said it had taken privacy concerns into consideration and the age-verification checks would not aim to establish the identity of individuals.

Porn websites that sell adult content, or provide it free of charge but earn money from advertising, will have to employ companies that provide age checks.

Various verification methods will be available, including the offline purchase of viewing passes in shops or using a passport or credit card online.

Sites where porn accounts for less than a third of content will be exempted from the new requirements, as long as they do not market themselves as having pornographic content.

Government officials acknowledge the use of virtual private networks, which mask the location of a computer, will make it possible to skirt the age checks but say the main aim of the law is to make it harder for children to access or stumble upon porn.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Gareth Jones

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