The UK wants to introduce mandatory age checks for online porn and ban a range of sex acts

The UK wants to introduce mandatory age checks for online porn and ban a range of sex acts

Fisting, watersports, face-sitting, and other sex acts could banned completely online

by James Vincent@jjvincent Nov 23, 2016, 7:57am EST

On top of its draconian new surveillance laws, the UK government wants to enforce strict age checks for viewing online pornography. Any website that contains adult material will have to verify users’ ages using methods like credit card checks. The law will apply to websites hosted outside the UK, and those that refuse to introduce age checks will be banned. This could affect sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit, all of which contain pornographic material, even though that is not their primary use. Sites would be banned by asking ISPs and mobile operators to block access, just as with piracy websites.

“THE GOVERNMENT IS COMMITTED TO KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE.”

“The government is committed to keeping children safe from harmful pornographic content online and that is exactly what we are doing,” said Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in a press statement this weekend. “Only adults should be allowed to view such content.” The laws would form part of the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Commons.

In addition to strict age verification, the same legislation could also censor certain content altogether. Sex acts that are deemed by the government to be unconventional — including female ejaculation, fisting, public sex, and caning, whipping, or spanking that leaves a mark — would be banned outright. This would bring online content under the same restrictions that have been enforced for pornography sold locally on DVDs and via video on-demand sites since 2014. These regulations have been the subject of protests in the UK for the past two years.


Protestors objecting to the UK’s obscenity laws in 2014.

Critics say that enforcing its existing obscenity laws online will drag the UK back into a pre-internet era of prurient morality, and ignores the fact that these are legal activities performed between consenting adults. The rules of classifying whether sex acts are legal or not include a number of specific, but unofficial, regulations. For example, when judging whether fisting is taking place, the UK’s censors abide by the “four-finger rule” — that is to say, it’s not fisting if you can see a thumb. Watersports are fine as long as the urine is not aimed at another person or consumed, and face-sitting is acceptable as long as the person being sat on can breathe.

“It’s mad that we regulate such material that aren’t even criminal acts,” professor Clare McGlynn, an expert on UK pornography laws, told The Guardian. “If we are regulating things like menstrual blood or urination, that’s detracting from a focus on what I think is really the harmful material, and that would be material around child sexual abuse, but also around sexual violence.”

So far, UK politicians have not debated the issue of censoring certain sex acts outright, but have instead focused on the viability and need for age checks. The government has not commented on suggestions it might loosen its censorship, stating only that it wishes to make sure the same “rules and safeguards” exist in the online world, as in the physical world.

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