UK regulator Ofcom has called on adult website operators to do more to protect children against accessing inappropriate content. According to a new report, of the 19 adult video sharing sites based in Great Britain, only one has implemented effective safeguards for under-18s.
What is the background story?
In 2021, Ofcom, the UK’s regulator for broadcasting, postal services, telecommunications and radiocommunications was given additional responsibilities. One of these is to oversee UK-based sites that enable the sharing and broadcast of adult content. There are currently 19 British sites that fall into this category.
As part of their job, Ofcom checks that operators are fulfilling their obligations to prevent access to adult content by children. According to their report, almost all of the sites allow users to self certify their age; by simply ticking a box labelled, ‘Yes, I am aged 18 years or older’ (or similar), anyone can then go on to view pornographic content. Just one service, OnlyFans, requires users to provide proof of identity and age before they are allowed onto the website.
Things are about to change
The long awaited Online Safety Bill is expected to radically change the way that websites operate in the UK. Among a range of new measures will be a requirement for any adult site owner to verify the age of users before permitting access. This new requirement will extend to all porn sites and any other service which hosts age-restricted content, not just videos. Topics for regulation include: disinformation, hate speech, electoral manipulation, microtargeted advertising, trolling, bullying, offensive speech, child abuse, self-harm, terrorism, cybercrime, poor sleep quality, harassment and more.
How this change will come into force has not yet been agreed. Some commentators believe that the additional administrative overheads could see services terminated entirely in the UK – or the introduction of subscriptions and paywalls to cover the additional costs incurred. Although the goals of the new Law are good, the effect on how the internet works in Great Britain could be huge. The Law may better protect children, but there could be longer-term issues with free speech for adults.
A better option for parents
At the moment, the best option for concerned parents is still education and technology. By openly discussing what is (and is not) appropriate, parents can help their children better understand the potential harms that exist online. They can explain the dangers of adult content and why it is important for parents to keep their children away from it.
These discussions can then be reinforced by applying parental controls to devices to prevent kids circumventing house rules. You can also prevent accidental or unwanted content being shown to your kids with Panda Dome Family which has built-in content filtering to block adult sites.
Clearly change is happening in the UK, but very slowly. The inaction by adult video-sharing site operators does little to protect children – so parents will need to take the lead and act for themselves.