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August update

August 17, 2020

As August provides a brief break from the relentless schedule of monthly meetings, it is a perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on where the age verification sector stands.

Globally, there is certainly a continued increase in focus on applying the general principle that what is illegal in the real world should be illegal online as well.

In June, our members presented the latest AV tech to Government officials, academics, activists, technologists, educators, researchers and regulators from 29 countries on five continents at a conference organised by the Reward Foundation.

This has led to a number of specific follow-up opportunities. We responded to a consultation from South Africa on new regulations for online pornography. We learnt of a draft Bill being considered by the New South Wales Parliament to require age verification for same-day deliveries of alcohol ordered online. And a Canadian Senator reached out as part of her preparations for introducing a Bill for online age verification there.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is currently considering proposals for a major project to deliver interoperable infrastructure to facilitate AV and the parental consent required under GDPR data protection laws across the EU. The AVPA corporately, and a number of individual Members are involved in bids for this marquee programme.

The EU is also consulting on its own online harms legal framework, having recently produced a new strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. Which was widely welcomed by children’s charities.

While the AVPA’s outlook is global, the UK has been one of the most active jurisdictions in the field of age verification, and that shows no sign of changing. The Home Office is moving forward to implement recently approved legislation tightening the requirements for age checks for knives and acids, with AV required at both the point of sale and the point of delivery.

The UK Government continues to shed light on its plans for a new Online Harms Bill, although so far only an interim response to its preceding consultation has been published. The latest insight came in answer to a Parliamentary Question, which disclosed that the Duty of Care envisaged in the new law would only apply to sites which include user-generated content (UGC), such as comments and video uploads. This left many questioning how the gap in policy emerging around adult content funded by advertising, but without UGV, will be filled. Similarly, the Age Appropriate Design Code from the Information Commissioner’s Office, currently in its final stages of Parliamentary approval, does not include pornography in its scope, with the assumption that such sites would not allow children to access them in the first place.

Ofcom is now making progress on age verification, with a call for evidence around the Audio Visual Media Services Directive, due to be implemented into UK law by the middle of next month, but the timetable for the new regulation suggests a fairly gentle pace to putting that it place.

Just this week, the Labour Party launched its own consultation on “Our Digital Future” so there is no sign of the Parliamentary pressure letting up in the UK for action to make the internet a safer space for children. Whichever political party or wherever in the world it happens, efforts in this area will continue to be welcomed and receive our full support as we encourage an independent, ubiquitous and standards-based global framework for age verification.