A law which would require all pornography websites to verify the ages of visitors from the UK or face being blocked has been delayed.
The age verification law was introduced as part of the Digital Economy Act, and means that anyone wishing to view pornography online will have to prove they are over 18 years old.
Although it was due to be implemented in April, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have now postponed it until “later in the year” as they consult on ensuring that the law will work properly.
Government officials believe that age verification will protect children, and that it will help to fulfill the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online.
But academic researchers and technology experts have warned that the measures will not necessarily protect children from online pornography.
Instead the move could put government ministers and other high-profile figures at risk of blackmail if their embarrassing habits were observed by hackers.
Niche pornography producers in the UK have warned that the age verification law is putting their businesses at risk due to the costs of verifying the ages of visitors rather than purchasers.
They have also warned that the law could create an age verification monopoly out of pornographic giant MindGeek, which owns many popular adult websites and production studios.
MindGeek told Sky News it will not use its ability to track the sexual preferences of 25 million people in the UK to snoop on them, although it did plan to collect a trove of information on users, including their names, addresses, date of birth, as well as their online activities on other websites.