Digital Economy

Part of Uk-EU Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 8:17 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland) 8:17 pm, 17th December 2018

I will keep my remarks brief not only because of the time available, but because many of the concerns that the Liberal Democrats share have been covered, particularly by Liam Byrne, who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench.

On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I would like to oppose these flawed—as we see it—Government plans for age verification for access to online pornography. Ostensibly, as we have heard tonight, the main aim of the proposals is to stop children from stumbling on to online pornography, but there is little supporting evidence that young people do stumble upon these sites. If they do, it is more likely that they are not the dedicated sites that would be covered by the legislation.

That is one flaw, but my main objection is that the Government’s proposals would mean tracking information from people using these sites by suggesting that a credit card or an address are given to check against the electoral register. An act that is private and, in most cases where the information is asked for, legal, would be recorded and could be tracked on the person’s computer. On top of that, there are concerns about the lack of privacy protections, that the information could be open to hacking and that, like any other bulk data, it could be sold on.

The legislation is also easy to circumvent. Indeed, US websites have already said that they will simply ignore it because, to their mind, it interferes with legal independence and the rights of the individual. However, my main concern is that this flawed legislation could lead to the targeting of sexual minorities who are over 18 and can visit the sites. Some members of the LGBT community may wish to keep their identity or their sexuality secret for several reasons, but the legislation would risk the possibility of their being hacked and that information being leaked. In a nutshell, those are the reasons why Liberal Democrat Members oppose the Government’s proposals.