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What is the porn ban, and how does it affect you?

The UK government is pushing new legislation to protect minors from online pornography. Here’s what it has in mind, as we explain what is the porn ban, and how it affects you. (Also see: Best parental control software.)

What is the UK porn ban?

The UK government has today confirmed that all sites containing pornographic content will soon be legally required to request some form of age verification. If a visitor cannot prove they are over 18, they will not be able to access pornographic material online. This comes as part of the government’s commitment to protect children from online porn.

Should a minor manage to break a website’s age-verification defences, there will be more than just slapped wrists as a consequence. The UK government will establish a regulatory framework and, where it is breached, hold responsible the company profitting from that pornography and impose civil sanctions (monetary penalties).

The porn ban is not in effect just yet, however. The consultation, which outlines the government’s preferred approach following its talks with ISPs, social media- and search companies, charities, academics and more, will run until 12 April 2016.

How does the UK porn ban affect you?

Once the UK porn ban is in effect, if you are a teenager (under 18) the age-verfication system will prevent you from looking at online pornography. Those over 18 will have to verify their age in order to look at online porn.

If you are a pornography website owner it will be your legal responsibility to verify the age of visitors, and if you fail to do so you will be fined.

Will the UK porn ban work?

For those kids most determined to get their hands on porn, the system is unlikely to work. Until it goes ahead we can’t be sure exactly what getting around the porn ban would involve, but it could be as simple as lying about your age or getting an older sibling or friend to sign into a website for you.

However, that the government is doing something to keep children safe online is a great deal better than nothing. The porn ban will protect those most vulnerable from accidentally stumbling across indecent images, and at least make it more difficult for other minors to access pornographic content, potentially prompting them to reconsider their actions.

“This consultation is an important and welcome step forward in keeping children safe from online pornography. Companies that produce and profit from this material have a responsibility to give children the same protection they would get in the offline world,” says Peter Wanless, chief executive of NSPCC.

“Every day ChildLine receives calls and messages from young people who feel they are being badly affected by the way they and their friends can view unlimited online pornography. As a matter of urgency we must prevent children having ready access to content rated over 18 as it can give them a warped view of sexual relationships.”

Read next: How to protect your kids online, on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.

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