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South Africa is mulling taking the same route as the UK by implementing a defacto online porn block, in a bid to reduce access to pornography by underage users.

In a report released last month by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) titled Pornography and Children, provisional recommendations were made to block all digital pornography. However, while the UK is approaching things by requiring websites to verify the identity of users, the SALRC proposal suggests “all devices (new and second hand) be issued or returned to a default setting that blocks inappropriate content.”

The proposal also emphasises that anyone who uninstalls or works around the default block setting, allowing a person under the age of 18 to access adult content, would be guilty of offence.

The 436 page document comes nine years after the South African Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, first proposed a complete ban on online porn to the SALRC.

The suggestion coincides with the upcoming UK Digital Economy Act changes, an age verification system that will come into action July 15 in the UK.

The UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has taken several years to come up with an Age Verification (AV) solution, which was ultimately outsourced to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), and has thrown up many concerns regarding data protection.

The SALRC not only proposes rules around default settings on devices, but also seems to seek to emulate the UK, where all major adult porn sites are blocked and there is an opt-in option for proof of age, either via uploading your ID or retrieving a “porn pass” from a public store.

Whatever the outcome of the South African ‘porn block’, there seems to be a misguided consensus that blocking adult content is the solution for protecting those under the age of 18, with the UK as the guinea pig. In reality, these blocks will only make the situation worse.

Read Next: Watching female-centric porn can be educational for under 30s (but the UK’s still making access harder for everyone)

Oli Lipski
Oli is a freelance sex tech researcher based in London. With an MA in Sexual Dissidence, researching sex tech, and a BA in History, researching gender and sexuality, she has a keen understanding of the past, present and future of sex.

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