The Digital Economy Bill is expected to soon gain Royal Assent. Included is a plan for an age-verification regulating body to ensure all online viewers of pornography are over the age of 18. The regulator will force viewers to enter their personal details into a government database before admittance to an erotic website is obtained. Any vendor that refuses to comply will be blacklisted.
The government is convinced that free access to pornography is doing untold damage to a generation of young men. However, like all social ‘sciences’, research on the subject is tenuous. During the Bill’s second reading, sponsor Karen Bradley and Labour’s Sarah Champion resorted to the musings of adolescents for supporting evidence. Bradley claimed that “one in five children recently surveyed had encountered pornographic images that had upset them”, whilst Champion quoted a report in which “71% of girls aged 17 to 21 agreed that online pornography makes aggressive and violent behaviour towards women seem normal.”
Clearly, this bill contains some fruity assumptions. But the real pressing matter is its vulnerability to abuse. In a 2014 survey, 15% of Britons admitted to being regular watchers of porn, meaning civil serpents will be privy to stacks of sensitive information. Can we really trust officialdom with this fountain of knowledge? Not when, according to the National Audit Office, State departments breached personal security data 9,000 times between 2014/15.
In addition, executing the checks is going to be a colossal operation: around 4% of the worldwide web is adult material. The exact cost to the taxpayer has not yet been calculated, but the British Board of Film Classification – the agency in charge – will struggle to screen all the petabytes. Just how many porn-browsing bureaucrats will they need to hire? And in an era of ruinous deficits and perpetual healthcare crises, should we be undertaking such pricey measures?
To be fair, the internet is an ocean of degeneracy. And if left to their own devices, teenage boys will accumulate a formidable arsenal of porn. But we should be trusting the parents to police this ‘problem’; porn filters are widely available, easily installed and already used by 40% of guardians in the US. Raising awareness in the UK would be a cheaper, less invasive, more appropriate response.
Let’s face it: the Digital Economy Bill is botched. Register your disapproval here.
Charlie Richards is a political blogger
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty