Online Safety Bill (Regulation of Pornography)

I would like to reassure you that my commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. While going online can be hugely beneficial for children, who use the internet for connecting with peers, accessing educational resources and for entertainment, I completely agree that it is vital that children are protected from accessing inappropriate, harmful content, including online pornography.

As you might be aware, the Government announced in October 2019 that it would not commence the age verification provisions of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017. While I appreciate your frustration with this decision, I must point out that the Draft Online Safety Bill will be able to go further than the Digital Economy Act’s focus on online pornography on commercial adult sites. It will be able to protect children from a broader range of harmful content and activity, across a wider range of sites.

Under the proposals, companies are expected to use age assurance or age verification technologies to prevent children from accessing services which pose the highest risk of harm, such as online pornography. This will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media. These measures will therefore bring into scope more online pornography currently accessible to children than would have been covered by the narrower scope of the Digital Economy Act.

I am, however, heartened that the Government recognises that concerns have been raised about protecting children from online pornography on services which do not currently fall within the scope of the Bill. I have been assured that the Government will use the draft Bill's pre-legislative scrutiny to explore ways to provide wider protections for children from online pornography, including on sites that do not fall within scope of the duty of care.

15/11/2021