Australia considers porn site age verification similar to troubled UK system | Culture


A parliamentary committee initiated by the Coalition will investigate how porn websites can verify Australians visiting their websites are over 18, in a move that looks similar to the troubled UK age verification system.

The family and social services minister, Anne Ruston, and the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, referred the matter for inquiry to the House of Representatives standing committee on social policy and legal affairs.

The chair of the committee, LNP MP Andrew Wallace, said in a statement announcing the inquiry that it was “concerning” that people accessing pornography online did not have to verify they were over 18.

“This is concerning, as research shows that accessing pornography negatively influences young peoples’ attitudes to sex, sexuality and relationships.”

The committee will examine how age verification works for online gambling websites, and see if that can be applied to porn sites.

Wallace noted that “appropriately classified” adult websites in Australia would not be the focus of the inquiry.

Australia’s strict classification regime would mean the vast majority of adult websites would be in the focus of this inquiry.

According to the inquiry’s terms of reference, the committee will examine whether such a system would push adults into unregulated markets, whether it would potentially lead to privacy breaches, and impact freedom of expression.

The committee has specifically been tasked to examine the UK’s version of this system, in the UK Digital Economy Act 2017.

Under the scheme, which is not yet in operation due to delays in its implementation, websites must carry out age verification, and those that refuse face being blocked from access by internet service providers in the UK.

The UK is believed to be the first in the world to implement such a system, should it come into effect in the next few months.

The scheme has faced issues in its implementation, with the British government forced to exempt social media sites such as Twitter, Reddit and Imgur, which would otherwise be blocked for the adult content they host.

There have also been concerns that the system would result in large databases of UK viewers of porn, which would be a privacy issue if the databases are leaked.

In Australia, the Coalition prior to the 2013 election floated a policy of opt-out internet filtering that would operate in such a way where people would need to tell their ISP that they wished to access adult content in order not to be subject to the filter.

The policy was quickly dropped when news of the plan was reported just two days out from the election, despite the then junior shadow communications minister Paul Fletcher endorsing the policy at the time.

The previous Labor government abandoned plans for a mandatory internet filter in 2012.

Eros Association, which represents the adult industry in Australia, said in a Facebook post it would resist attempts to follow the UK model for age verification.



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