Digital Economy

Part of Uk-EU Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 7:05 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport 7:05 pm, 17th December 2018

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that serious work is being undertaken as we speak, as we prepare the online harms White Paper. We are looking at encryption within the context of that White Paper. He will appreciate the difficulties of privacy versus the public need to reduce the exposure of young people to pornographic material. We are looking at this very seriously. We will be bringing forward the White Paper in the new year and will welcome his input on that.

We have set a threshold of 30% to ensure proportionality where material is made available free of charge. Thus there is an exemption for people making available pornographic content on a website where it makes up under one third of that content. This will ensure that websites that do not derive a significant proportion of their overall commercial benefit from pornography are not regarded in these regulations as commercial pornographic websites. Nevertheless, should a website or app be marketed as making available pornographic material, a person making such material available on that site will be considered to be making it available on a commercial basis even if it constitutes less than one third of the total. This is a proportionate way to introduce the new policy.

I am confident that these measures represent the most effective way to commence this important new policy, but our Department will of course keep it under review. Indeed, as I said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be reporting on the regulatory framework within 12 to 18 months of commencement of the regulations. In addition, as I just mentioned in response to the hon. Gentleman, the forthcoming online harms White Paper will provide us with another opportunity to review the wider context of this policy.

In conjunction, we have laid two pieces of British Board of Film Classification guidance—first, on age verification arrangements and, secondly, on ancillary service providers. The first piece of guidance sets out the criteria by which the BBFC will assess whether a person has met the requirements of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 to ensure that pornographic material is not normally accessible to those under 18. The criteria mandate four things: an effective control mechanism at the point of access to verify that a user is aged 18 or over; strict requirements on age verification data; a requirement to ensure that revisits to a site do not permit the bypassing of age verification controls; and the prevention of non-human operators—for example, bots—from exercising the age-verification regime.