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Government delaying AV for porn again!

February 23, 2022

We have recevied a deeply concerning reply from DCMS confirming that they will be delaying the implementation of age verification for pornography but another 2-3 years.

We had written urging they include pornography on the face of the Online Safety Bill; we had hoped the announcement that came the day after we sent that delivered on this.  But the reply below puts that into doubt, which is of course very concerning, as it will further delay the impact of the legislation by 1-2 years more after Royal Assent (which itself is not expected before 2023).  It’s taking Ofcom 2 years to enforce the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive on just 20 video sharing platforms.

The Government argues:

  1. That using secondary legislation “will also allow for parliamentary oversight and democratic debate about the harms to be included in the list” overlooking the fact that this would also be the case if it is in primary legislation.
  2. They need legislation to remain “agile and flexible” – presumably to give them the option to remove pornography from the list of priority harms in future!

They also fail to address our concern about enforcement against > 1 million porn sites, with each one requiring a separate court order.

We urge Ministers to reconsider this before publication of the revised draft Bill, as it will surely be unsatisfactory to a Parliament which first legislated for age verification for pornography in 2017, and is not in the spirit of assurances given to the High Court in two judicial review proceedings that the new Bill would remedy the failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act.

Reply from SOS DCMS 23-2-2022