Pornography websites may have to use photo ID and credit card checks to protect children

Pornography websites may have to use photo ID and credit card checks to protect children

Websites showing pornographic content may have to use credit card checks and photo ID matching to confirm users are over 18, as part of the Online Safety Act.

Regulator Ofcom has published draft guidance for platforms on how to protect children from pornography to ensure firms comply with the new internet laws.

The recommendations include photo ID matching – where an uploaded document such as a passport is compared with an image taken at that moment.

The draft guidance says websites must use methods which are technically accurate, robust, reliable and fair to carry out age checks.

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Verified facial age estimation technology and mobile network age checks which automatically block age-restricted websites if the operator knows the user is under 18 have both been recommended.

And users could also sign up to digital identity wallets where their proof of age is stored digitally and can be shared with the online pornography service.

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However, the regulator said certain approaches would not meet its new standards, including self-declaration of age, online payments methods which do not require a person to be 18, such as a debit card, or general terms, disclaimers or warnings about content.

Under the Online Safety Act, platforms which do not comply with the new laws will face enforcement action, including possible fines.

“Pornography is too readily accessible to children online, and the new online safety laws are clear that must change,” Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said.

“Our practical guidance sets out a range of methods for highly effective age checks. We’re clear that weaker methods – such as allowing users to self-declare their age – won’t meet this standard.

“Regardless of their approach, we expect all services to offer robust protection to children from stumbling across pornography, and also to take care that privacy rights and freedoms for adults to access legal content are safeguarded.”

Ofcom said it would continue to work with online pornography services to finalise the draft guidance before a final version is published in early 2025.