Support in Australia for British-style age checks on porn websites

 abc.net.au  7/18/2017 5:58:11 AM   Laura Corrigan

Updated July 18, 2017 16:01:47

Software forcing porn website users to verify their age has been introduced in Britain and cyber safety experts say similar laws could be used to protect Australian children.

The British Parliament yesterday passed orders compelling pornography websites in the UK to install age-verification software — and potentially take credit card details — to ensure users were not under 18.

From April 2018, British porn websites not complying would be fined or blocked.

Australian advocacy groups welcomed the move, saying pornography contributed to unhealthy and sexist views of women and sex.

Some research suggests a link between pornography use and an increase in child-on-child sexual abuse.

"Right now, we have laws around cigarettes, we have laws around alcohol, it's [pornography] simply unsuitable for consumption by children," Liz Walker, chairwoman of Porn Harms Kids, said.

"While ever there's unfettered access, children are being harmed."

Australia's eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, said her office was watching the outcomes of the UK policy closely.

"While technology solutions can help limit the types of content children can access, they cannot be used in isolation to solve the entire problem," she said.

But online privacy campaigners were concerned about the collection of users' private information.

Electronic Frontiers Australia executive officer Jon Lawrence said compulsory age verification would be an ineffective policy and the Australian public would not stand for it.

"[The age checks] are trivial to circumvent, they are not effective and they have really quite serious unintended consequences," he said.

Mr Lawrence said if people's porn surfing habits were being collected, the data could be hacked and used for malicious purposes such as blackmail.

He said protecting children from harm was important but government control of access was not the answer.

"This is just another attempt to find a technological solution to what is essentially a social problem," he said.

There was public backlash when the Rudd government tried to introduce an internet filter policy in 2007, and it was eventually dropped.

But Ms Walker said parents could not be expected to shoulder the whole responsibility of child protection.

"Pornography is deemed as a public health crisis of the digital age, and once something becomes a public health crisis it becomes a responsibility for everyone to take an active step to prevent further harm," she said.

In March, the Government supported senate references committee recommendations for more research into child exposure to online pornography.

Topics: internet-technology, pornography, community-and-society, internet-culture, children, united-kingdom, australia

First posted July 18, 2017 15:58:11

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