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Rishi Sunak faces a new rebellion within the party over age verification of porn

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The Online Safety Act aims to protect children when they use the Internet.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing another rebellion from members of his Conservative Party who want to tighten legislation to require websites to implement stricter age checks to prevent children from accessing pornography.

A series of amendments being drafted to the long-discussed Online Safety Act will require all porn websites to implement age verification systems within six months of the law coming into force. It’s lawmakers’ latest backlash after a planned rebellion by Tory MPs earlier this month that prompted Sunak to concede to demands that Big Tech directors face jail for failing to remove harmful content.

The Online Safety Act, designed to protect children when using the internet, is due to begin passage by the upper chamber of lords, the House of Lords, on Monday.

The new changes, expected to be discussed in late February, will require adults to prove they are over 18 using strict forms of age verification already used for online gambling, such as uploading an ID card or by credit card details. This can be done through a third-party tool to ensure that a person’s identity is not linked directly to the porn site, which is a more privacy-friendly approach.

“What we need is an emphatic timeline and a clear commitment to strict mandatory age verification,” said James Bethell, a Conservative colleague overseeing the changes, in an interview on Tuesday. “The current regulations are a Kumbaya aspiration that leaves too many loopholes, no enforcement and no timeline.”

Other approaches to age verification, including using software that estimates a person’s age through facial analysis via a webcam or phone camera, do not require identification documents. OnlyFans already takes this approach with the software created by Yoti.

While the government argues that legislation must remain general so it can keep up with changing technology, Bethell insists that porn is so harmful to children that immediate legislation is needed.

This isn’t the first time policymakers have attempted to introduce age verification for adult-only websites. The Digital Economy Act of 2017 included age verification provisions, but these were dropped by the government before implementation.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by TOI.News staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)

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