Inquiry to examine UK-style age verification for porn access

Parliamentary inquiry launched into age verification for gambling and porn services

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has launched in inquiry into age verification mechanisms for access to online gambling and pornography services.

“While customers must verify their age within 14 days to continue using an online wagering account, an age verification process is not required at all for customers to access online pornography,” the committee’s chair, Liberal National MP Andrew Wallace, said in a statement.

“This is concerning, as research shows that accessing pornography negatively influences young peoples’ attitudes to sex, sexuality and relationships.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry include examining the potential of age verification as a mechanism for protecting minors online, federal and state laws that relate to age verification requirements and “the potential benefits of further online age verification requirements, including to protect children from potential harm, and business and non-government organisations from reputation, operational and legal risks”.

The inquiry will also examine potential risks and unintended consequences, including possible privacy breaches and freedom of expression.

The terms of reference make specific reference to age verification regulations for access to pornography being rolled out in the UK under the Digital Economy Act 2017.

The UK government has said it will be the first the world to introduce age verification for online pornography. “It means that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over,” states the UK government’s web page explaining the new system.

Failing to comply could lead to websites having payment services withdrawn or being blocked in the UK, according to the government.

The measure was due to take effect in July but was delayed by six months because the government failed to inform the EU of the planned measures.

In Australia, the former federal Labor government sought to introduce a wide-ranging ISP-level Internet filtering scheme that would target websites containing material that would be refused classification in Australia. The proposal was abandoned in late 2012.

Last year the government confirmed it was assessing the feasibility of a voluntary filtering scheme that would involve major Australian ISPs blocking access to overseas gambling websites.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs is accepting submissions for its inquiry until 25 October.

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