The Digital Economy Bill has been passed by the House of Commons at its third reading - without a vote. The draft legislation will now be debated in the House of Lords.
The Bill would empower the government to order the blocking of porn sites that fail to provide age-verification checks, and would automatically levy fines against internet service providers (ISPs) that didn't comply with the block.
The government is believed to be planning to give the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC - formerly the British Board of Film Censorship) the power to order ISPs to block many websites that aren't deemed pornographic, with late amendments also calling for "other material" to be blocked, without specifying what it means by "other material".
"The requirement to block websites would apply to all sites in the UK and overseas. Where websites originate in the EU the process will be compatible with country of origin rules," according to the BBFC.
The Internet Service Providers Association, the trade body for ISPs in the UK, warned that the Digital Economy Bill could harm the UK's digital economy.
In a statement, it claimed: "The government previously said web blocking is a policy that is ‘disproportionate', that technical measures can be easily circumvented and legal content could be blocked my mistake, so we are concerned and disappointed it has gone down this path.
"This change in direction has been agreed without any consultation, with no assessment of costs nor is there any certainty that it will comply with judicial rulings on interference with fundamental rights."
While the Bill is supported by the opposition Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats - now out of government and now numbering just eight MPs - vowed to continue opposing it.
"Clamping down on perfectly legal material is something we would expect from the Russian or Chinese governments, not our own. Of course the internet cannot be an ungoverned space, but banning legal material for consenting adults is not the right approach," said Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Brian Paddick.
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