In April, the United Kingdom will begin rolling out its latest cyber security measures as part of their promised actions for the Digital Economy Act 2017. What is being dubbed the ‘UK Porn Ban’ is set to take the form of age verification system like AgeID, blocking access to pornographic websites such as PornHub and YouPorn to underage internet users. Websites not complying could be charged up to a $330,000 fine.

What is AgeID?

AgeID is the product of MindGeek, the internet giant whose most prominent subsidiaries include websites PornHub, YouPorn, and RedTube. With AgeID functioning, browsers will be taken to a blank verification screen before being allowed access to the pornographic material. On this loading page, adult users will have to enter in their usernames and passwords.

This login mechanism will be related to a previous verification process where the username is verified against a mobile number, a credit card, a passport, or a driving license. Alternatively, users could purchase a physical voucher in person from a shop which will allow them access.

Mechanically speaking this method is likely to severely slash the numbers of children getting access to the pornographic websites that feature the AgeID page. According to the UK government, this is classed as a job well done.

What the government seemingly hasn’t considered is whether the reduced number of children accessing the restricted websites is at all a solution to the supposed problem.

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

If the government’s only goal is to stop underaged people from getting access to pornography – which is doubtful – then this solution is middling at best and completely ineffective at worst.  This is because of two reasons.

Adult Accomplices

First is the fact that young adults, experimenting with their burgeoning sex drives, will most likely find ingenious methods to pass the age verification test.

A rite of passage in the UK is progressing from being the teen stood awkwardly outside an off-license asking passing adults to go in with your tenner to buy you a bottle of vodka, to finally becoming the adult furiously attempting to ignore young scallywags’ attempts to get you to buy them booze.

It’s the circle of miserable British life.

Those same desperate teens are going to now hound people on the streets for porn cards as well. In the age of the declining high street, is that really what the UK’s shops need?

Politicians Misunderstand Technology

The second reason is more problematic than the evolution of children asking a weirdo to buy them a copy of Playboy. The UK’s porn ban is not as widespread or as thorough as the government would like you to believe.

Whether they admit it or not, there is no way they’ll be able to cover every pornographic website with the verification software. It's widely known that a VPN can be used to get around restrictions of all kinds placed by governments and ISPs.

The websites most transparently complying with the UK’s demands are naturally some of the most well-used and safe. The websites that aren’t on the ban’s radar are much less likely to be safe. Websites not covered by the ban will no doubt host some of the more questionable content both in terms of browsing content and software. Malware and viruses are likely to abound in the websites niche enough to eschew the porn ban.

One potential problem the ban will increase is fake verification pages designed to lure unaware surfers into divulging private data to nefarious entities.

Will the UK porn ban reduce the number of children accessing inappropriate material?

Maybe.

Is the methodology of the ban a broken solution to a problem more complex than appreciated?

Definitely.