-Jere Johansson-

Graphics: Kristina Völk

-Jere Johansson-

Browsing the internet in the not too distant future, we may begin to come across bulky virtual bouncers asking for ID. They’ll be hired by the UK Government and will block the main thing the internet was made for…online porn.

In 2015, David Cameron’s government announced plans to restrict the population’s porn consumption to protect oblivious, internet-surfing kids. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), nearly two thirds of 15 to 16 year-olds have seen naughty websites.

Under the Digital Economy Act 2017, the UK’s legal stance on the block is resolved, meaning age checks aren’t far away. Every user will have to prove they are 18 or over if they want to access. Proving you are over 18 could mean entering phone numbers, email addresses or even credit card details. Bizarrely, you might even have to go to a local shop, show your ID and collect a 16-digit code to then access a porn site.

The porn-blocking bouncer was supposed to arrive in April 2018, but after some technical delays, it should arrive later this year.

What will be considered porn?

The problematic question is: what will the government consider as a pornographic website? The porn giants, PornHub (ranked as the 8th most visited website in the UK) and RedTube have already accepted the age verification system and agreed to use it. However, how about social media? Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter are full of skin flicks and these platforms only require you to be older than 13.

The Online Pornography Regulations 2018 has a vague statement that defines what it deems as block-able commercial pornographic content. It is classed as commercial porn, if it has to be paid for or the creator receives a benefit of some sort. If the website has more than 33% of what is considered commercial porn content, then our bouncer comes into play.

Is it legal?

Government documents have said that their focus is, and should be “pornographic sites.” They are also preparing for the legal challenges that may arise when asking certain porn-prone platforms (such as Instagram, Reddit, or Twitter) to take content down.

Digital Minister Margot James revealed that the government had to ask the Treasury to provide indemnity of up to £10m, to cover the legal fees. In the first year alone, £10m could be lost in fighting for a porn block.


Data security is a massive issue. Porn records of individuals would be a jackpot for any malicious hacker. A hack on the scale of the Ashley Madison data breach could emerge, instead publicising your deepest fantasies to the outside world. When the names (and search history, addressees and credit card transactions) of individuals who had used the extramarital affairs service were released, users were fired, companies were bankrupted and some even took their own lives.

Will any of this work?

History is definitely not on the side of internet censorship. Over the years, governments have tried to restrict it and failed. Attempts to create the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) flopped as did efforts to crack down on Pirate Bay. Any ventures to restrict Pirate Bay have ended in tears.

There has always been a way around government internet blocks. If the under 18s of the UK really want to find internet porn, they will find it, no matter how solid the blocks are.