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#RepealThePornLaws

Our freedoms and right to privacy are under attack - and nobody is talking about it.

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From July 15, the Government will put up a filter to block all porn sites. In order to bypass this filter you will be required to verify your age by either:

  • Purchasing a government-approved porn pass from a local shop,

  • Providing government-approved companies with your credit card details, passport information, driving license, or a photo of your face.

The Adam Smith Institute has opposed this measure since it was first proposed. We have also published a paper arguing against the ban on extreme pornography, which played a role in recent obscenity law liberalisation.


Support the ASI’s Opposition to the Porn Law:

The ASI depends on generous donations to bring attention to and oppose bad public policies like the Government’s age verification law.

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There are a number of compelling reasons to oppose mandatory age verification checks:

It infringes our freedom.

The Government should not be interfering with the choice of a consenting adult to view perfectly legal material on the internet. The government, by mandating adult pornography consumers pay for a porn pass or enter their personal details when they visit sites hosting explicit material, is establishing yet another Nanny State interference in our lives. They are creating a dystopian future by requiring us to go to a local shop to get a government-approved porn pass or having to pull out your credit card to view online content.

Furthermore, if overseas companies do not comply they risk being blocked by internet service providers, removed from search engines and social media, and being issued with financial penalties. This will likely close off access by UK consumers to niche overseas pornography sites that do not introduce age verification.


It’s a massive risk to privacy.

There are significant risks in creating a centralised system that is responsible for governing access to pornography sites. Such a system would be a honeypot for blackmailers and hostile foreign governments to exploit. It has been asserted that ID checkers will not record viewing habits and have committed to hashing emails. However, there is still immense danger that a hacker could insert a code exploit into an ID system to gather plain text emails and site viewing habits.

These sorts of hacks are becoming more common. We know that computer systems, even the best, are never fully safe - as demonstrated by the 2015 Ashley Madison leak. Notably, AgeID—the most prominent age verification system—is owned by MindGeek: owner of the world’s largest pornography sites. MindGeek have had five major data breaches since 2012. The privacy standard certification scheme being developed by the BBFC for age verification providers is currently voluntary, which raises additional concerns. A hack exposing the details and viewing habits of tens of millions of British pornography users could have enormous negative impacts on marginalised people, public figures, and the general public.


It’s a gift to scammers.

Requiring those who visit pornography websites to upload credit card details or identity documents in order to access explicit material will significantly increase credit card fraud and identity theft. As the Open Rights Group has warned, “anything that normalises the entry of credit card details into pages where the user isn’t making a payment will increase the fraudulent use of such cards.”

Pornography is especially attractive to fraudsters as victims are often too embarrassed to flag up unexpected payments to credit card companies. Ironically, when it comes to online gambling the government is moving in the other direction: talking about banning credit card usage. Teenagers may also steal their parent’s credit cards to access pornography websites.


It won’t work.

Many web-savvy teenagers are already familiar with Virtual Private Network (VPN) software that allows them to bypass location-based content restrictions. Age verification systems would simply incentivise them to make greater use of VPNs and dark web browsers like Tor. There is also likely to be the creation of a black market in porn passes.

Ultimately, parents should be responsible for monitoring the content viewed by their children. Outsourcing this to the state will not work. It will end up introducing  more children to entirely unregulated spaces on the internet and create numerous child safety concerns.


It will hurt competition in the adult industry.

Age verification requirements disproportionately impose compliance costs on smaller, often niche pornography websites. This will entrench the market power of large incumbents and reduce access to pornography produced for sexual minorities.



Nobody knows it’s coming…

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There’s some good news for Government Ministers: people don’t know that they’re about to screw up (yet). Recent polling shows that 76% of the general public are completely unaware of the impending age verification rules.

Most people (including the majority of those who support the law) do not think this measure will work.

But many Brits may not be aware of the significant potential costs to this policy as outlined above. This need to change.


What can we do about it?

Right now nobody knows what’s going on. That’s where you come in. We need to spread the word. You can take action against mandatory age verification checks by:

  1. Familiarising yourself with Virtual Private Network (VPN) or anonymous browsing software.
    This video explains what VPNs are and how they work. This article explains their legality.

  2. Writing to your MP.
    You can find out how to contact your local MP here. A template letter can be downloaded here.

  3. Spread the word on social media using #RepealThePornLaws.