UK media watchdog targets OnlyFans, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitch with ‘robust’ age verification measures

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Ofcom Age Verification

Adult video sharing sites and apps operating in the UK are set to come under tougher new rules for age verification and content removal, following the British media regulator announcing a crackdown.

Britain’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) laid out new measures that video-sharing platforms (VSPs) will have to comply with in the UK. Platforms hosting video content, that come under the VSP bracket and report to Ofcom, include OnlyFans, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitch, among many more.

Under the new measures, sites and online services hosting porn content will have to have “robust age-verification” in place, to ensure that anyone accessing adult material are over the age of 18.

The VSPs will also be expected to make reporting harmful content easier for users, and to provide clear rules for uploading content.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom Chief Executive, suggested that adult content-focused sites that rely on user-generated porn were a particular focus of the new measures. Ofcom has identified cracking down on child sex abuse content as a top priority for the organization.

“Adult VSPs carry a heightened risk of child sexual abuse material and the rise in direct-to-fans subscription sites specialising in user-generated adult content has potentially made this risk more pronounced,” Dawes said.

She added: “Given this heightened risk, we expect that VSPs’ creator registration processes and subsequent checks are strong enough to significantly reduce the risk of child sexual abuse material being uploaded and shared on their platforms.”

Companies that do not comply with the new measures will face fines, being forced to take specific action, or in extreme cases service suspension or removal.

While video-hosting sites such as OnlyFans may be under most scrutiny following Ofcom’s move, many have already begun shoring up age verification processes in response to tougher online adult content rules in the US.

Beyond adult content and child sex abuse, Ofcom is attempting to crack down on hate speech, racism and terrorism-related content. The organisation said that its research showed that one third of users of VSPs had viewed hateful content on such sites.

The move may raise concerns that it may become tougher for legitimate sex workers to post explicit content online. Ofcom said it would take a “rigorous but fair” approach to enforcing the new measures, and balance safety with freedom of speech.

Dawes said: “Online videos play a huge role in our lives now, particularly for children. But many people see hateful, violent or inappropriate material while using them. The platforms where these videos are shared now have a legal duty to take steps to protect their users.”

In 2019, the UK government tried to implement a controversial ‘porn block’ scheme to ensure that underage users did not access adult content. After multiple delays, the scheme was abandoned.

Read next: ‘You need us more than we need you’: Creators’ trust in OnlyFans eroded

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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.

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