BBFC Admits Porn Filter is Useless In Face of VPNs

The BBFC, the UK’s designated Internet porn regulator, is admitting that VPNs will circumvent the UKs Internet age verification system.

It is one of the many things critics have pointed out with Britain’s Internet porn ban. In December of 2017, it was announced that the BBFC would manage the age verification laws.

For those who are having a hard time remembering the UK’s age verification controversy, here’s a quick run down. Essentially, ISPs will automatically block websites with adult content on it should they not follow the laws. Those websites who do follow the laws would require users to have what is dubbed a “porn pass” to access adult material online. That “porn pass” is sold at physical locations supposedly so that they can verify the users age.

In turn, once a porn pass is bought, personal information and details are recorded. In turn, that user is then given a form saying that they understand the dangers of accessing pornographic material and how pornography is supposedly a public health risk. Such disclaimers might remind some people about the dangers of smoking, only this time, a signature is required.

After that, websites compliant with the laws will have those records on file and the information is put into a database managed by the websites themselves. That, in and of itself, sparked a lot of controversy when people pointed out that this is a security nightmare in and of itself. In fact, Open Rights Group, a digital rights organization operating in the UK, accused the British government of negligence for passing these laws in the first place.

On top of it all, many have wondered for years now how the laws are supposed to stop users from using a VPN to circumvent the laws in the first place. Many suggest that this alone makes the laws effectively worthless. Now, those concerns are coming back to haunt the regulators. According to The Telegraph, the BBFC is admitting that it is powerless to stop users from circumventing the porn ban using a VPN:

Porn websites are highlighting loopholes in the ban on under-18s accessing them, as the watchdog admitted it will be powerless to stop tech-savvy teenagers circumventing it.

The regulator acknowledged virtual private networks (VPNs) will allow users to evade age verification checks from July 15 by allowing under-aged users to create ghost accounts abroad that can access the porn sites.

Although most VPNs require payment, MindGeek, the firm behind some of the world’s largest porn sites, has already released its own free VPN service, VPNHub, which allows users to disguise their location.

Asked about the prospect of children using VPNs, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the regulator, admitted age-verification is “not a silver bullet.”

A spokesman added: “Determined teenagers will find ways to access pornography. However, it will mean young children can no longer stumble across porn on commercial pornographic websites.”

The article goes on to say that regulators are more focused on larger sites. This is because the number of pornographic websites out there ranges in the millions and it would be impossible in any practical sense to regulate them all.

Still, all this highlights a few of the deep flaws of the age verification laws in the UK. It’s unlikely they will stop trying to push to further tighten down the Internet, but it’s one of the many ways governments are trying to crack down on the Internet with extremely limited success. At the very least, it does highlight that experts were right all along.

(Via Gizmodo)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.