Posts Tagged ‘DCMS’

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at

DCMS logoIn a press release the DCMS describes its digital strategy including a delayed introduction of internet porn censorship. The press release states:

The Strategy also reflects the Government’s ambition to make the internet safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.

Our priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft guidance which will be launched later this month.

For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at

dcmd guidance age verification A few extracts from the documentIntroduction

  1. A person contravenes Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 if they make
    pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to
    persons in the United Kingdom without ensuring that the material is not
    normally accessible to persons under the age of 18. Contravention could lead
    to a range of measures being taken by the age-verification regulator in
    relation to that person, including blocking by internet service providers (ISPs).
  2. Part 3 also gives the age-verification regulator powers to act where a person
    makes extreme pornographic material (as defined in section 22 of the Digital
    Economy Act 2017) available on the internet to persons in the United


This guidance has been written to provide the framework for the operation of
the age-verification regulatory regime in the following areas:

● Regulator’s approach to the exercise of its powers;
● Age-verification arrangements;
● Appeals;
● Payment-services Providers and Ancillary Service Providers;
● Internet Service Provider blocking; and
● Reporting.

Enforcement principles

This guidance balances two overarching principles in the regulator’s application of its powers under sections 19, 21 and 23 – that it should apply its powers in the way which it thinks will be most effective in ensuring compliance on a case-by-case basis and that it should take a proportionate approach.

As set out in this guidance, it is expected that the regulator, in taking a proportionate approach, will first seek to engage with the non-compliant person to encourage them to comply, before considering issuing a notice under section 19, 21 or 23, unless there are reasons as to why the regulator does not think that is appropriate in a given case

Regulator’s approach to the exercise of its powers

The age-verification consultation Child Safety Online: Age verification for pornography identified that an extremely large number of websites contain pornographic content – circa 5 million sites or parts of sites. All providers of online pornography, who are making available pornographic material to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis, will be required to comply with the age-verification requirement .

In exercising its powers, the regulator should take a proportionate approach. Section 26(1) specifically provides that the regulator may, if it thinks fit, choose to exercise its powers principally in relation to persons who, in the age-verification regulator’s opinion:

  • (a) make pornographic material or extreme pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to a large number of persons, or a large number of persons under the age of 18, in the United Kingdom; or
  • (b) generate a large amount of turnover by doing so.

In taking a proportionate approach, the regulator should have regard to the following:

a. As set out in section 19, before making a determination that a person is contravening section 14(1), the regulator must allow that person an opportunity to make representations about why the determination should not be made. To ensure clarity and discourage evasion, the regulator should specify a prompt timeframe for compliance and, if it considers it appropriate, set out the steps that it considers that the person needs to take to comply.

b. When considering whether to exercise its powers (whether under section 19, 21 or 23), including considering what type of notice to issue, the regulator should consider, in any given case, which intervention will be most effective in encouraging compliance, while balancing this against the need to act in a proportionate manner.

c. Before issuing a notice to require internet service providers to block access to material, the regulator must always first consider whether issuing civil proceedings or giving notice to ancillary service providers and payment-services providers might have a sufficient effect on the non-complying person’s behaviour.

To help ensure transparency, the regulator should publish on its website details of any notices under sections 19, 21 and 23.

Age-verification arrangements

Section 25(1) provides that the regulator must publish guidance about the types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with section 14(1). This guidance is subject to a Parliamentary procedure

A person making pornographic material available on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom must have an effective process in place to verify a user is 18 or over. There are various methods for verifying whether someone is 18 or over (and it is expected that new age-verification technologies will develop over time). As such, the Secretary of State considers that rather than setting out a closed list of age-verification arrangements, the regulator’s guidance should specify the criteria by which it will assess, in any given case, that a person has met with this requirement. The regulator’s guidance should also outline good practice in relation to age verification to encourage consumer choice and the use of mechanisms which confirm age, rather than identity.

The regulator is not required to approve individual age-verification solutions. There are various ways to age verify online and the industry is developing at pace. Providers are innovating and providing choice to consumers.

The process of verifying age for adults should be concerned only with the need to establish that the user is aged 18 or above. The privacy of adult users of pornographic sites should be maintained and the potential for fraud or misuse of personal data should be safeguarded. The key focus of many age-verification providers is on privacy and specifically providing verification, rather than identification of the individual.

Payment-services providers and ancillary service providers

There is no requirement in the Digital Economy Act for payment-services providers or ancillary service providers to take any action on receipt of such a notice. However, Government expects that responsible companies will wish to withdraw services from those who are in breach of UK legislation by making pornographic material accessible online to children or by making extreme pornographic material available.

The regulator should consider on a case-by-case basis the effectiveness of notifying different ancillary service providers (and payment-services providers).

There are a wide-range of providers whose services may be used by pornography providers to enable or facilitate making pornography available online and who may therefore fall under the definition of ancillary service provider in section 21(5)(a) . Such a service is not limited to where a direct financial relationship is in place between the service and the pornography provider. Section 21(5)(b) identifies those who advertise commercially on such sites as ancillary service providers. In addition, others include, but are not limited to:

  • a. Platforms which enable pornographic content or extreme pornographic material to be uploaded;
  • b. Search engines which facilitate access to pornographic content or extreme pornographic material;
  • c. Discussion for a and communities in which users post links;
  • d. Cyberlockers’ and cloud storage services on which pornographic content or extreme pornographic material may be stored;
  • e. Services including websites and App marketplaces that enable users to download Apps;
  • f. Hosting services which enable access to websites, Apps or App marketplaces; that enable users to download apps
  • g. Domain name registrars.
  • h. Set-top boxes, mobile applications and other devices that can connect directly to streaming servers

Internet Service Provider blocking

The regulator should only issue a notice to an internet service provider having had regard to Chapter 2 of this guidance. The regulator should take a proportionate approach and consider all actions (Chapter 2.4) before issuing a notice to internet service providers.

In determining those ISPs that will be subject to notification, the regulator should take into consideration the number and the nature of customers, with a focus on suppliers of home and mobile broadband services. The regulator should consider any ISP that promotes its services on the basis of pornography being accessible without age verification irrespective of other considerations.

The regulator should take into account the child safety impact that will be achieved by notifying a supplier with a small number of subscribers and ensure a proportionate approach. Additionally, it is not anticipated that ISPs will be expected to block services to business customers, unless a specific need is identified.


In order to assist with the ongoing review of the effectiveness of the new regime and the regulator’s functions, the Secretary of State considers that it would be good practice for the regulator to submit to the Secretary of State an annual report on the exercise of its functions and their effectiveness.

Read more gcnews.htm at

matt hancockMatt Hancock MP was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Censorship, Media and Sport on 8 January 2018. He was previously Minister of State for Digital from July 2016 to January 2018.Matt Hancock is the MP for West Suffolk, having been elected in the 2010 general election.  Since July 2016 he has served at DCMS as Minister of State for Digital and is responsible for broadband, broadcasting, creative industries, cyber and the tech industry.

The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for strategy and policy across the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The department’s main policy areas are:

  • arts and culture
  • broadcasting
  • creative industries
  • cultural property, heritage and the historic environment
  • gambling and racing
  • libraries
  • media ownership and mergers
  • museums and galleries
  • the National Lottery
  • sport
  • telecommunications and online
  • tourism

Hancock has already been working on the new law to serve up porn viewers on a platter to scammers, fraudsters, blackmailers and identity thieves, so there is unlikely to be a change of direction there.

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at

dcms age verification risk assessment The UK government slipped out its impact assessment of the upcoming porn censorship law during the Christmas break. The new law requires porn websites to be blocked in the UK when they don’t implement age verification.The measures are currently due to come into force in May but it seems a tight schedule as even the rules for acceptable age verification systems have not yet been published.

The report contains some interesting costings and assessment of the expected harms to be inflicted on porn viewers and British adult businesses.

The document notes the unpopularity of the age verification requirements with a public consultation finding that 54% of respondents did not support the introduction of a law to require age verification.

However, the government has forged ahead, with the aim of stopping kids accessing porn on the grounds that such content could distress them or harm their development.

The governments censorship rules will be enforced by the BBFC, in its new role as the UK porn censor although it prefers the descriptor: age-verification regulator . The government states that the censorship job will initially be funded by the government, and the government is assuming this will cost £4.5 million based upon a range of estimates from 1 million to 8 million.

The government has bizarrely assumed that the BBFC will ban just 1 to 60 sites in a year. The additional work for ISPs to block these sites is estimated £100,000 to £500,000 for each ISP. Probably to be absorbed by larger companies, but will be an expensive problem for smaller companies who do not currently implement any blocking systems.

Interestingly the government notes that there wont be any impact on UK adult businesses notionally because they should have already implemented age verification under ATVOD and Ofcom censorship rules. In reality it will have little impact on UK businesses because they have already been decimated by the ATVOD and Ofcom rules and have mostly closed down or moved abroad.

Te key section of the document summarising expected harms is as follows.

The policy option set out above also gives rise to the following risks:

  • Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online;
  • Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved;
  • The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator;
  • Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
  • The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data;
  • The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%).
  • Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

The list does not seem to include the potential for blackmail from user data sold by porn firms, or else stolen by hackers. And mischievously, politicians could be one of the groups most open to blackmail for money or favours.

Another notable omission, is that the government does not seem overly concerned about mass VPN usage. I would have thought that the secret services wanting to monitor terrorists would not be pleased if a couple of million people stared to use encrypted VPNs. Perhaps it shows that the likes of GCHQ can already see into what goes on behind VPNs.

Read more uk_internet_censors.htm at

DCMS logoThe Government has formally proposed that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) be designated as the regulator for the age verification of online pornography in the UK.

Age verification will mean anyone who makes pornography available online on a commercial basis must ensure under 18s in the UK cannot access it. This is part of the Government’s continuing work to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

The BBFC has unparalleled expertise in classifying content and has a proven track record of interpreting and implementing legislation as the statutory authority for age rating videos under the Video Recordings Act.

This, along with its work with industry on the film classification system and more recently classifying material for mobile network operators, makes them the preferred choice for regulator.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said:

One of the missions of age verification is to harness the freedom of the internet while mitigating its harms. Offline, as a society we protect children from viewing inappropriate adult material by ensuring pornography is sold responsibly using appropriate age checks. It is now time that the online world follows suit. The BBFC are the best placed in the world to do this important and delicate task.

David Austin, Chief Executive Officer at BBFC said:

The BBFC’s primary aim is to protect children and other vulnerable groups from harmful content and we are therefore pleased to accept the Government’s proposed designation.

Age-verification barriers will help to prevent children accessing or stumbling across pornographic content online. The UK is leading the way with this age-verification regime and will set an international precedent in child protection.

The government’s proposal must be approved by Parliament before the BBFC is officially designated as the age-verification regulator.

The regulator will notify non-compliant pornographic providers, and be able to direct internet service providers to prevent customers accessing these sites. It will also notify payment-services providers and other ancillary service providers of these sites, with the intention that they can withdraw their services.

The Government will shortly also publish guidance on how the regulator should fulfil its duties in relation to age verification.

Response: The BBFC will struggle to ensure that Age Verification is safe, secure and anonymous

15th December 2017 See  article from

open rights group 2016 logo Responding to the news that the BBFC are in line to be appointed Age Verification regulator, Jim Killock Executive Director of the Open Rights Group said:

The BBFC will struggle to ensure that Age Verification is safe, secure and anonymous. They are powerless to ensure people’s privacy.

The major publisher, MindGeek, looks like it will dominate the AV market. We are very worried about their product, AgeID, which could track people’s porn use. The way this product develops is completely out of BBFC’s hands.

Users will not be able to choose how to access websites. They’ll be at the mercy of porn companies. And the blame lies squarely with Theresa May’s government for pushing incomplete legislation.

Killock also warned that censorship of porn sites could quickly spiral into hundreds or thousands of sites:

While BBFC say they will only block a few large sites that don’t use AV, there are tens of thousands of porn sites. Once MPs work out that AV is failing to make porn inaccessible, some will demand that more and more sites are blocked. BBFC will be pushed to block ever larger numbers of websites.

Response: How to easily get around the UK’s porn censorship

15th December 2017 See  article from

vpn compare logoOf course, in putting together this hugely draconian piece of legislation, the British Government has overlooked one rather glaring point. Any efforts to censor online content in the UK can be easily circumvented by anyone using a VPN.

British-based subscribers to a VPN service such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN will be able to get around any blocked sites simply by connecting to a server in another democratic country which hasn’t chosen to block websites with adult content.

As much as Governments try to censor online content, so VPN will offer continue to offer people access to the free and uncontrolled internet they are legally entitled to enjoy.

…Read the full  article from

Read more ow.htm at

Ofcom logoThe BBC is refusing an order to pay £9 million a year to the TV censor Ofcom, in a behind-the-scenes row over the cost of the corporation’s new censorship regime.

Ofcom, which will take on responsibility for censoring the BBC in April, is locked in a private battle after warning BBC executives that it wants to appoint double the number of staff the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s current ruling body, currently employs to censor the broadcaster.

The move will add more than £5 million to the regulatory bill currently footed by the licence fee payer, roughly equivalent to what the BBC spends on a six-part drama series .

The corporation is understood to have appealed to Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, to force Ofcom to reduce its fees. Sue Owen, permanent secretary at the DCMS, is understood to have written to Sharon White, the chief executive of Ofcom, calling on her to cut the planned fees, but White is said to have argued that the proposed charges are ‘reasonable’.

The corporation is said to be particularly annoyed that Ofcom has demanded £6.5 million for the past financial year, which covers a period before the broadcaster assumes its full regulatory duties.

Ofcom insists that it will have a more wide-ranging role than the Trust, and will have to hold the BBC to account on new political correctness issues such as diversity targets.

Read more UK Government Watch at

DCMS logo The Government is working with the UK music industry, BBFC and digital service providers like Vevo and YouTube to take further action to protect children from viewing inappropriate videos on the internet.

Many children have easy access to music videos online and some parents are rightly concerned that some of these contain imagery or lyrics not appropriate for a young audience.

In October 2014 a Government-backed pilot to introduce age ratings for online music videos was launched by the BBFC and BPI in conjunction with Vevo and YouTube, working with major UK music labels to introduce a new ratings system that would allow digital service providers to clearly display an easily recognisable age rating on videos posted on the web.

UK labels supply videos ahead of release to the BBFC, and then pass on the rating and guidance given by the BBFC when releasing their videos to the two digital service providers involved — Vevo and YouTube – who display it when the videos are broadcast online.

Building on the pilot, the Government has now as part of its manifesto commitment agreed with the UK music industry and with the digital service providers that the measures trialled will be now be made permanent for videos produced in the UK by artists who are represented by major labels.

As well as working with Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK, the Government is also encouraging independent UK music labels to follow suit so that the digital service providers can display appropriate age ratings on their videos too. We can announce today that independent UK music labels will now take part in a six month pilot phase.

Joanna Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, said:

Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world.

Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the Internet has to offer is a key priority for this Government’s One Nation approach to help families across Britain. We will continue to work with industry to develop ways to help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.

Clear age ratings are the first step but initial findings of independent research commissioned by the BBFC shows that up to 60 per cent of children aged 10 to 17 are watching music videos that they do not think their parents would approve of.

To help address this, Vevo are exploring plans to link these age ratings to additional technology on their platform that can support age controls.

On YouTube, when record labels upload a UK-produced music video rated 18 by the BBFC, they are able to age-gate access to users signed in as over 18. The new age ratings also complement YouTube’s existing restricted mode which helps parents screen out content they may not feel is right for their children. To date 132 music videos have been submitted by UK labels to the BBFC for certification and, of these, only one has been given an 18-rating — Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Couple of Stacks’.

Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said:

Britain is a world leader in making exciting and original music, in part because our artists have a freedom to express themselves that we rightly cherish. While we must continue to uphold this principle, it is equally important that music videos are broadcast in a responsible way and that parents are given the tools to make more informed viewing decisions on behalf of their families.

UK record labels value the opportunity to work with Government to build on the pilot and, as a key next step, we encourage Vevo, YouTube and other digital service providers to look at how they can make filters available to parents so they can use age ratings to screen out any inappropriate content.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said:

We welcome this agreement. Parents want to see clear and recognisable age ratings on online music videos and we look forward to building on the success of the pilot, in partnership with the industry, so that the public can have the trusted signposting which they seek.

Nic Jones, EVP International at Vevo, said:

Vevo have been participating in the BBFC’s age ratings pilot since its inception and welcome news that that scheme is to be permanently backed by UK major labels. We are very pleased that the UK independent labels — such an important part of the UK music landscape will now be part of this scheme. At Vevo we support artists and their creativity, however, we understand the importance and value that age ratings provide parents and music fans to help inform their viewing, enabling them to make choices about what content they wish to watch.

Vevo will be working with the BBFC as the scheme rolls out to make sure that age ratings are displayed in the most effective way on our platform, to provide the necessary guidance for audiences in a clear way. We are also committed to making the age ratings work as effectively as possible and will continue to explore how additional technology on the platform can support age controls to ensure that explicit content is watched only by age appropriate audiences.

Candice Morrissey, Content Partnerships Manager at YouTube EMEA, said:

We have been working with the participants in this pilot to help them display the BBFC’s age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These ratings are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube including the ability for uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a restricted mode.

Government and industry are also working together to look at how lessons learned in the UK could help international partners who share our concerns to adopt a similar approach.