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AVPA responds to Ofcom consultation on Pornographic websites

March 5, 2024

The AVPA has responded to the consultation by Ofcom on how it intends to regulate pornographic websites under Part 5 of the Online Safety Act.

We were broadly supportive of their approach, but there is one major ommission – the definition of “highly effective age assurance”.

Based on the work of experts developing international standards for the IEEE and ISO we have proposed:

Highly effective age assurance systems must demonstrate that their certified expected outcomes are such that more than 95% of children under 18 are prevented from accessing primary priority content, and more than 99% of children under 16 are prevented.

We are concerned that without expressing any opinion on the maximum acceptable false positive rate there will be a race to the bottom as sites which host primary priority content interpret the requirement as loosely as possible.  Less accurate solutions are generally cheaper, and will also deliver a larger audience for sites whose commercial model is based on advertising and traffic volumes.

It is hard to see how Ofcom can defend in court action against a site that has deployed a solution which allows for up to 20% false positives, with perhaps 10% of them being more than 5 years below the age of 18, if the service provider has documented that that it considers this level of accuracy to be highly effective.

Ofcom may argue that 20% is too great a level of error, but would at that stage be forced to state what level is deemed sufficiently effective anyway

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