Age verification tool delay ‘shows tech can never be solely relied on’

The delay in the introduction of age verification measures to prevent children from accessing adult sites proves that more than just tech-based solutions are needed, the head of one child safety group has said.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said in a statement to the House of Commons that an administrative error meant the rollout of the measures, which was due in July, could now be delayed by as much as six months.

Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of online safety group Internet Matters said the incident showed that safeguards were needed beyond relying on web-based tools.

“Our research showed the Government’s pornography age verification initiative was supported by eight out of 10 parents, who are keen to see stricter measures on commercial pornography sites,” she said.

“Preventing children from seeing content they’re not emotionally ready for is a top priority and we are in support of government taking action to do this.

“However this reiterates that technical measures can never be solely relied upon and there is no substitute for preparing children for what they might stumble across online.

“Internet Matters is today urging parents to talk to their children about online pornography early so that they feel confident to speak out should they come across something that makes them feel uncomfortable.”

In his statement announcing the delay, Mr Wright said he hoped “responsible” online pornography providers would introduce age verification tools on a voluntary basis “in the meantime”.

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