The UK is blocking porn. Here's all you need to know.

The internet is roughly 15% porn, at least according to a study conducted in 2017, and given the increasing internet penetration (sorry) and wider availability of content, that number may certainly be higher now.

In fact, looking at the UK alone; PornHub, XNXX, Xvideos, and Xhamster pop up in the top 20 websites by traffic, according to numbers available on SimilarWeb, making it no surprise that PornHub claimed that the "UK was the second most porn-hungry country in the world" in 2018. 

Starting April 2019, the UK government has a plan to prevent underage individuals from accessing porn online - and although its an applaudable idea to curtail the consumption of adult content by minors, their implementation is raising a lot of red flags internationally.

 

What the UK Government wants and how the porn block will work.

As part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, the UK government is implementing an online block to prevent free access to thousands of porn websites within the UK. Websites like PornHub and Xhamster will now require, by law, users to submit a valid ID that reveals the users real name, age, and potentially other personal information, depending on the ID submitted. This is to ensure that everyone accessing the website is above the age of 18. Websites will automatically redirect all users to a non-pornographic landing page where users can submit this ID to ensure that they are above 18, and only then will be allowed to access websites as originally intended.

The government is enforcing this as a means to curtail the access of underage individuals to pornography, however, the implementation itself is being highly criticised for a multitude of reasons, including the implementation of "AgeID" as a means to confirm the age of the user.

Porn sites that continue to serve content to the UK and fail to comply with the new laws may be fined up to £250,000, or risk facing a blanket ban by UK based ISPs.

 

The problem with gatekeepers, AgeID, and censorship.

Several users across the globe are critically vocal about this move, especially since it promtoes censorship online. According to an article published by WIRED on the same topic, "...it’s worth thinking about the government’s prudish distinction between “acceptable” sex and “unacceptable” sex being combined with this ability to shut down sites and monitor what people watch online. As campaigner Myles Jackman put it, “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die. If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence.

However, the concerns of others are more directly towards the technology being implemented to block porn.

AgeID, the age verification system being put in place, isn't developed by the government itself, but by MindGeek, the company that owns websites like PornHub and YouPorn. While concerns definitely revolve around "asking pornographers to protect children from porn", many are also questioning the implementations of a porn company owning personal information on millions of UK citizens, which they could potentially sell to third parties for a fee. 

 

MASSIVE concerns with user data and privacy.

Many people around the world access porn websites without having a profile or a username on the platform, and rightly so, since people would not be too comfortable with providing personal information to adult websites. Introducing AgeID now means that users would have to submit IDs like passports, driver's licenses, and credit cards, to validate their access to porn. While it is already highly alarming to consider submitting this information to websites, there is the added issue with how and where all this information would be stored. 

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said that “The BBFC will struggle to ensure that Age Verification is safe, secure and anonymous. They are powerless to ensure people’s privacy", and this is a highly valid point to raise, especially since the information would also be stored by MindGeek, without any clear restrictions on selling that user data to marketers and other third parties.

Moreso, the linking of ID with porn websites would also reveal a lot of personal information to the government about citizens' adult activities, preferences, and engagement with porn, opening up the potential to a whole new "Pandora's box" of speculation and discussion about what the government could use this information for.

 

The implications of a data breach.

And lastly, there is also the lingering shadow on the security surrounding the storage of all this information. Should a data breach occur, there could be rippling consequences with the public reveal linking personal information and pornographic data, with a lot of people discussing humiliation, blackmail, and shame.

When "The Impact Team" breached the databases of Ashley Madison, a commercial website billed as enabling extramarital affairs, the website had to pay out over $10 million in damages to over 30 million users. The wider consequences of this breach, however, led to a lot of people having their privacy disabled, and being personally targeted for various reasons.

In contrast, PornHub alone has over 3 billion visits a month from hundreds of millions of users, with the UK accounting for up to 7% of its traffic, making a potential data breach leaving many users vulnerable to having their identity revealed. 

 

Circumventing the ban and accessing content.

In the effort to implement age verification, websites like Pornhub and XHamster would have to verify the identity of users accessing with AgeID on their website by requiring the mandatory submission of a legal ID if the user is visiting from a UK IP address. 

Using services like a VPN would definitely assist in circumventing the ban by rerouting a user's IP to a location outside of the UK, where mandatory identification is not a concern.

Other than unblocking porn sites, there are plenty more benefits of using a VPN for any online activities since all of your online traffic and history are encrypted and therefore you are able to browse the internet anonymously.

At ZenMate, Our encryption is military-level and your activities are encryption to be hidden from the government, marketers, and ISPs. Even we cannot access your usage information, as we enforce a strict 100% no-log policy to ensure you have complete anonymity and privacy.

So if you're above 18 and want to access the, uh, research that you love free of judgement and verification, then get ZenMate and continue enjoying the internet the way you want. You do you.

 

GET ZENMATE - UP TO 83% OFF