News story

New blocking powers to protect children online

Pornographic websites that refuse to stop children accessing explicit content will be blocked under new Government plans.

Regulator the British Board of Film Classification BBFC will be given powers to make internet service providers restrict access to pornographic sites which do not put tough age verification measures in place to protect kids.

Amendments to the Digital Economy Bill bringing in the robust new measure will be tabled next week and is the latest tool to stop children viewing adult content online.

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:

The Government is committed to keeping children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing.

Only adults should be allowed to view such content and we have appointed a regulator, BBFC, to make sure the right age checks are in place to make that happen. If sites refuse to comply, they should be blocked.

The Digital Economy Bill already contains measures to bring in age verification for pornographic sites and the ability to withdraw payment services from non-compliant sites - hitting them in the pocket.

This latest measure will allow the BBFC to go further by directing ISPs to block access to rogue sites.

The Government has been working with the ISPs and the BBFC on the move to ensure it will be successful in protecting children.

It is also seeking co-operation from other supporting services like servers to crack down on wrongdoers.

The measures will protect children from accessing pornography online, just as they are protected offline.

The risks and harm to young children who view pornography are real. Not only can it distress them, it can have a damaging impact on how they view sex and relationships for the rest of their lives.

A recent survey by the NSPCC found that 47% of 11-16 year olds had accessed an adult site and that one in five 11-17 year olds said they had seen pornographic images that shocked or upset them.

The regulator BBFC will be given the powers to direct ISPs to prevent access to any site that doesn’t have age verification in place. If sites won’t take the step to ensure children can’t access their content, this new power will make sure they can’t by preventing viewers accessing the site.

The amendment will allow the age verification regulator, BBFC, to issue a notice to ISPs, and those that cover mobile network operators, to prevent access to websites that have no or inadequate age-verification for pornographic material.

The regulator will have flexibility with a range of options and which one they use will depend on the circumstances of any given case. However, once they have been instructed to act, ISPs will prevent access to the whole pornography site.

Notes to Editors

  • 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.

What we have done to protect children from accessing harmful pornographic material:

  1. In October we announced that the age verification regulator would be the British Board of Film Classification.
  2. The top 50 sites account for 70% of users. Many, including the largest free site by market share have agreed with the government to implement age verification.
  3. Free pornography sites are teasers for paid sites. The payment service providers (eg VISA, Mastercard) have agreed, if needed, to withdraw transaction services from non-compliant websites.
  4. Websites need servers to host them, advertisers to support them, and infrastructure to connect them. With the international and unregulated manner in which the Internet operates we cannot compel supporting services to be denied but the regulator will seek to gain cooperation from the industry.
  5. For those sites who won’t comply with Age Verification we will allow the regulator to implement ISP blocking and take the sites down.
  6. Read: A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young on the Children’s Commissioner website