Government plans to make adult websites across the world introduce age checks - first mooted by David Cameron - have taken a step forward with the publication of draft guidance and regulations by the British Board of Film Classification.
The rules, which became law under the Digital Economy Act 2017, were supposed to be up-and-running in April, but were delayed due to the challenge of framing the regulations and guidance.
While the regulations are a draft statutory instrument - a form of delegated legislation drawn up by civil servants under the authority of the 2017 Act - the guidance is intended to provide easy-to-follow advice for who is, and is not, covered by the legislation, as well as how they're supposed to implement it.
"The Guidance outlines good practice, such as offering a choice of age-verification solutions to consumers. It includes information about the requirements that age-verification services and online pornography providers must adhere to under data protection legislation, and the role and functions of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
"The Guidance also sets out the BBFC's approach and powers in relation to online commercial pornographic services and considerations in terms of enforcement action," claims the BBFC.
The guidance and Online Pornography Regulations 2018 have been held up over fears that the BBFC could face legal challenges by disgruntled website operators covered by the legislation. Minister of State for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, has been forced to request an indemnity of up to £10 million from the Treasury for the BBFC in response.
"[There's] a risk that the BBFC will be exposed to legal challenge on the basis of decisions taken as the age verification regulator or on grounds of principle from those opposed to the policy," said James.
She continued: "As this is a new policy, it is not possible to quantify accurately the value of such risks. The government estimate a realistic risk range to be between £1 million and £10 million in the first year, based on likely number and scale of legal challenges."
The law has been complicated over who is and isn't covered. While sites that directly provide pornography and charge for it, or serve adverts to visitors, will need to have age checks in place, apps and services in which less than one-third of their content is accounted for by porn won't have to have the checks in place.
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