Rishi Sunak Faces New Rebellion Within Party Over Porn Age Verification

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing another rebellion from members of his Conservative Party who want to toughen legislation so websites are forced to introduce more robust age checks to stop children accessing pornography.A series of amendments being drafted for the long-debated Online Safety Bill will propose that all porn websites must implement age verification systems within six months of it becoming law. It’s the latest pushback from lawmakers following a planned rebellion by Tory MPs earlier this month that prompted Sunak to cave in to demands for Big Tech directors to face jail if they fail to remove harmful content.The Online Safety Bill, designed to protect children when they use the internet, is set to begin its passage through the upper, revising chamber, the House of Lords on Monday.The new amendments, likely to be debated in late February, will demand that adults prove they’re over 18 by using stringent forms of age verification already used for online gambling, for example uploading an ID card or credit card details. This can be done via a third-party tool to ensure that a person’s identity is not directly linked to the porn site, which is a more privacy-preserving approach.”What we need is an emphatic timetable and clear cut commitment to hard-gated mandatory age verification,” James Bethell, a Conservative peer who is overseeing the amendments said in an interview on Tuesday. “The current provisions are a kumbaya aspiration that leaves open too many loopholes, no enforcement and no timetable.”Other approaches to age verification, including using software that estimates someone’s age by analyzing their face via a webcam or phone camera, do not require any identity documents. OnlyFans already takes this approach using software created by Yoti.While the government argues that the legislation needs to remain general to allow it to keep up with changing technology, Bethell insists porn is so harmful to children it needs immediate legislation.This is not the first time policymakers have tried to introduce age checks for adult-only sites. The Digital Economy Act of 2017 had age verification provisions, but they were dropped by the government before being implemented.