Australia rejects stricter age verification rules for access to porn, shunning global trends

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Australia rejects tightening porn age verification rules.

In the US, UK and across Europe rules around age verification to access porn sites are tightening. But the Australian government has just bucked the trend by saying it won’t force porn sites to implement age verification – yet.

Australia’s Communications Minister Michelle Rowland suggested that concerns about privacy, plus any age verification processes needing to be robust and hard to circumnavigate, meant that it was not currently appropriate to force sites to adopt age verification in the country.

In the US, Pornhub, one of the world’s biggest porn sites, has blocked access in states such as Virginia and Mississippi, in reaction to tougher age verification rules being introduced there. France and Germany are steaming ahead with age verification measures, and the UK’s Online Safety Bill, expected to be passed soon, is designed to make it tougher for minors to access online porn, among a raft of other unrelated measures.

The Australian government said that rather than passing porn age verification laws, it would introduce a new industry code based on educating parents about how to prevent their children accessing porn, including the use of filtering software. Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, the government agency for online safety, has been charged with working with the porn industry to create the code.

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In countries and regions where porn sites are blocked, or require online age verification processes to access, it is often easy to circumnavigate such blocks and measures by using virtual proxy networks (VPNs). VPNs can be easily downloaded on phones, and many of them are free.

A cartoon illustration depicts an old man using a laptop in a world of tightening porn age verification rules. Copyright SEXTECHGUIDE

The Australian government said that in future, if any technology is used to limit access to porn, it needs to not be easily circumnavigated. It said that porn users’ personal information must not be at risk of exposure or abuse by such technology; points that campaigners against the regulations have called out repeatedly.

Australian authorities have not ruled out introducing age verification for online porn in the future, with the government saying it was keeping an eye on the UK’s Online Safety Bill, to see what could be learned from its implementation.

The UK Online Safety Bill, if passed as expected, will require “pornography companies, social media platforms and other services to be explicitly required to use age verification or estimation measures to prevent children accessing pornography.”

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Jamie F
Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice, among others. He is also the creative force behind the Audible podcast Beast Master.

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