5Rights response to the Government's announcement on age assurance for pornography

10 February 2022

5Rights Foundation welcomes the Government’s announcement this week that brings all websites offering pornography into scope of the upcoming Online Safety Bill. Unrestricted access to online pornography has devastating consequences for children. It normalises sexual violence, creates unhealthy attitudes to relationships, and stokes negative body image and fuels child sexual abuse.  

We are also delighted to see that Government has recognised the need to introduce privacy preserving age assurance an issue which 5Rights Foundation has been campaigning for. A legislative solution to this was already set out in the Age Assurance (Minimum Standards) Bill put forward by 5Rights Foundation Chair and crossbench member of the House of Lords, Baroness Beeban Kidron.

Age assurance has applications far beyond pornography, but to be fit for purpose it must be privacy preserving and proportionate to risk. In bringing forward statutory guidance the Government has made a vital first step in building the digital world children deserve and ensuring that they are not locked out of services and products they have every right to access, while preventing age assurance being misused to further invade the privacy of all users.

In the House of Lords today Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Conservative) said:

“There is agreement at an international level and within the UK that much more needs to be done to create a safer online environment for children. Baroness Kidron has played a significant part in fostering that agreement.

“The Age Appropriate Design Code will play a key role in delivering protections for children ahead of and alongside the new Online Safety regulatory framework. We have aligned our approach with the Code, which requires companies to apply its standards for protecting children’s personal data where they have assessed that children are likely to access their service. This will provide consistency for companies who may be required to comply with both the Code and the provisions of the Online Safety Bill.”

5Rights welcome these announcements and look forward to seeing the full detail of the proposed guidance on the face of the Online Safety Bill.

Baroness Kidron (5Rights Foundation Chair and Crossbencher) said, “I want to congratulate the Government on this week’s announcement that the Online Safety Bill will include statutory guidance for privacy preserving age assurance.”

Baroness Merron (Labour) said, “I welcome the announcement that the draft Online Safety Bill will be updated to better protect young people from online pornography.”

Lord Clement-Jones (Liberal Democrat) said, “I welcome what the government has already announced but there are crucial elements to the control of commercial pornography. First of all the age assurance measures that were set out in Baroness Kidron’s Age Assurance (Minimum Standards) Private Members Bill and secondly the protections offered to young children through the Age Appropriate Design Code. There is no indication yet that the government has actually accepted the alignment of the Age Appropriate Design Code with the Online Safety Bill. This is a really important factor if we are going to make sure that young people are safe.”

Baroness McInthosh of Pickering (Conservative) **said, “I join Baroness Kidron in congratulating the Government on the work they are doing in this area.”