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Age verification (AV) for access to online pornography was due to come into force from 15 July 2019.

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 set out the framework for AV. According to the Government, AV would protect children from “distressing or unrealistic images of sex” that could harm their emotional and psychological development.

In June 2019, the Government announced that implementation would be delayed for about six months. This was because the European Commission hadn’t been notified about the UK’s guidance on AV arrangements.

On 16 October 2019, the Government announced that Part 3 of the 2017 Act would not be commenced. The objectives of the Act would instead be delivered through the Government’s proposals for tackling online harms.


AV had been welcomed by organisations working to protect children. However critics raised concerns about:

  • data security and privacy;
  • freedom of expression;
  • avoiding AV by using virtual private networks (VPNs) or the dark web.

Related Library Briefing: Social media regulation (CBP 8743).

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