U.K. Lords Want More Details about Age-Verification

porn eyeLONDON – The House of Lords committee set to review the Digital Economy Bill has called a halt to the legislation until the government provides more details about how the age-verification portion of the law will be implemented.

Under the proposed law, already approved by the House of Commons, pornographic websites must verify all visitors are of legal age before granting access. Those that do not adhere to a scheme approved by UK regulators risk sanctions including fines and blocking by ISPs.

However, as members of the Lords’ Public Bills Committee pointed out, nothing in the bill spells out how the system will work, nor even what entity will serve as the “as-yet-to-be-determined regulator.” Without such details, the committee cannot effectively scrutinize the bill, members said.

“Our concern is exacerbated by the fact that, as the bill currently stands, the guidance and guidelines will come into effect without any parliamentary scrutiny at all,” according to a statement issued by the committee. “The House may wish to consider whether it would be appropriate for a greater degree of detail to be included on the face of the bill.”

Significant doubts about the bill’s advisability arose last week when a U.N. official warned the legislation could violate human rights accords by making age-verification an instrument of state-sponsored surveillance and exposing internet users to breaches of privacy.

Subsequently, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham advised the Lords’ committee she has “significant concerns about any method of age verification that requires the collection and retention of documents such as a copy of passports, driving licences … which are vulnerable to misuse and/or attractive to disreputable third parties.”

The opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, have characterized the bill as a paragon of censorship, saying it seems like something the Russian or Chinese governments would impose.


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