Age Checks May ‘Push’ Young People to Dark Web

United Kingdom — Young people could be “pushed” towards extreme content, as well as other internet landmines, by age verification processes on adult websites, an impact assessment into the U.K. government’s plans stated.

Starting in May of this year, pursuant to 2017’s Digital Economy Act, people will have to prove they are 18 year of age before accessing websites containing adult content. Officials have set out potential risks of the policy in an impact assessment report.

The report states: “The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems/spoof websites and access user data.”

It adds: “There is also a risk that both adults and children may be pushed towards ToR where they could be exposed to illegal activities and more extreme material.”

The age verification mandate has also raised privacy issues and security concerns regarding storage of personal details gathered when age verifying.

Realistically, who didn’t see these concerns coming?

Presumably, the government has created a rock/hard place situation with its age verification policy. Regardless of whether or not they are age-appropriate consumers, for various reasons, people who do not feel comfortable or are unable to verify their ages still want porn. They may thus be “pushed” underground, utilizing ToR for instance, the most popular software used to gain access to the dark web.

As reported by Zedid News, a spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “There is no single solution, but age verification to protect young people from harmful pornographic content is an important part of our work to ensure that the U.K. is leading the way in online safety.”

In so many ways, this approach is off mark.

It’s troubling that this critique is framed in language that makes users seem somehow forced to access the dark web. A more accurate assessment would be that users may choose this route, all done in light of varying wider social attitudes about sex throughout the life course.

Rather than take active steps to engage social problems, like terrible sex education, the U.K. is choosing to create another layer of nanny state. This will most likely be counterproductive. They will most likely double-down on finger pointing as a result.

Image via Nadine Wegner.

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