HomeInsightsGovernment plans to introduce new blocking powers to protect children online

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Pornographic websites that refuse to stop children accessing explicit content will be blocked under new Government plans.

The Government is planning to give the British Board of Film Classification powers to make internet service providers restrict access to pornographic sites that do not put tough age verification measures in place to protect children.

Amendments to the Digital Economy Bill bringing in the robust new measure will be tabled this week. This is the Government’s latest tool to stop children viewing adult content online.

The Digital Economy Bill already contains measures to bring in age verification for pornographic sites and the ability to withdraw payment services from non-compliant sites. This latest measure will allow the BBFC to go further by directing ISPs to block access to rogue sites.

The Government has been working with the ISPs and the BBFC on the move to ensure it will be successful in protecting children. It is also seeking co-operation from other supporting services to crack down on wrongdoers.

The risks and harm to young children who view pornography are real, the Government says. Not only can it distress them, it can have a damaging impact on how they view sex and relationships for the rest of their lives.

A recent survey by the NSPCC found that 47% of 11-16-year olds had accessed an adult site and that one in five 11-17-year olds said they had seen pornographic images that shocked or upset them.

The amendment to the Bill will allow the BBFC to issue a notice to ISPs, and those that cover mobile network operators, to prevent access to websites that have no or inadequate age-verification systems in place for pornographic material.

The regulator will have flexibility with a range of options and which one they use will depend on the circumstances of any given case. However, once they have been instructed to act, ISPs will prevent access to the whole pornography site. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.