As New Legislation Looms, Adult Sites Must Do More To Protect Children, Warns Regulator
Most adult-only sites in the UK are failing to do enough to protect children from porn, regulator Ofcom has warned.
According to Ofcom, while all such sites have age verification measures in place when users sign up to post content, most allow users to access adult content just by self-declaring that they are over 18.
One even admitted that it had considered implementing age verification, but decided not to as it would reduce the profitability of the business.
Some sites with adult content, says Ofcom, have taken steps to protect younger internet users. TikTok now categorises content that may be unsuitable for young people, and has also established an Online Safety Oversight Committee to maintain compliance within the UK and EU.
Snapchat, meanwhile, recently launched a parental control feature, Family Center, which allows parents and guardians to view a list of their child’s conversations without seeing the content of the message.
Vimeo now allows only material rated ‘all audiences’ to be visible to users without an account, with content rated ‘mature’ or ‘unrated’ now automatically put behind the login screen.
And BitChute has updated its terms and conditions and increased the size of its content monitoring team.
“We’ve used our powers to lift the lid on what UK video sites are doing to look after the people who use them. It shows that regulation can make a difference, as some companies have responded by introducing new safety measures, including age verification and parental controls,” says Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive.
“But we’ve also exposed the gaps across the industry, and we now know just how much they need to do.”
According to Ofcom, many smaller adult video sharing sites simply use a tick box to ‘verify’ a customer’s age, and fail to prioritise risk assessments of their platforms.
Ofcom recently launched a formal investigation of one such firm, Tapnet, which runs the RevealMe adult site, after the company failed to respond to a statutory request regarding its user protections.
“It’s deeply concerning to see yet more examples of platforms putting profits before child safety,” says Dawes. “We have put UK adult sites on notice to set out what they will do to prevent children accessing them.”
Over the next twelve months, Ofcom says it expects companies to set and enforce effective terms and conditions for their users, and quickly remove or restrict any harmful content. It will also review the controls that platforms provide to their users, and is asking them to publish clear plans for protecting children from the most harmful online content, including pornography.
And with the Online Safety Bill looming on the horizon, websites will almost certainly be required to tighten up their processes. Ofcom says it is encouraging all companies likely to fall within the bill’s scope to review how they assess risks to their users, work to improve, and integrate trust and safety across product and engineering teams and staff.