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Internet pornography: requirement to prevent access by persons under the age of 18

Part of Digital Economy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 20th October 2016.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy) 2:00 pm, 20th October 2016

In that case, the platform—I do not want to get into individual platforms, but I am happy to take my hon. Friend’s example—would likely be an ancillary service provider and therefore captured. This is a very important distinction. There is a difference between somebody who is actively putting up adult material and choosing not to have age verification, and a platform where others put up adult material, where it is not necessarily impossible but much harder to have a control over the material. There is an important distinction here. If we try to pretend that everybody putting material onto a platform, for example, the one that my hon. Friend mentions, should be treated the same way as a porn-providing website, we will be led into very dangerous territory and it makes it harder to police this rather than easier. That is my argument.

On the specific amendments, I understand entirely where the argument on demand is coming from. I want to give an assurance which I hope will mean that these clauses will not be pushed to the vote. On-demand audio-visual media services under UK jurisdiction are excluded from part 3 of the Bill because they are regulated by Ofcom under part 4A of the Communications Act 2003. As my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes said, other on-demand services that are not currently regulated in the UK will be caught by the Bill regime.

The amendments and new clause 7 would apply the Bill’s age verification requirements to on-demand audio-visual media services under UK jurisdiction, meaning that we would end up with a double regulation. They would also amend the existing age verification requirement that applies to providers of those services to cover material that the British Board of Film Classification would describe as “18 sex works”, as well as R18 and equivalent. I want to be crystal clear about the aim: it is to have complementary regimes as between on-demand material regulated by Ofcom and material to be regulated by the BBFC, so that although the regulator may be different, the result is the same.