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The UK government’s war on porn will expose children to more and worse
Ars first raised the prospect of the UK government bringing in age verification for porn sites a year ago and confirmed that it would be happening in February.

In its written evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill, the Open Rights Group put together a good summary of the problems with the approach. These include the privacy risks of creating insecure databases of the UK's porn habits, and the fact that age verification will be easy to circumvent.

As a more recent blog post by the Open Rights Group notes, MPs have finally woken up to the fact that age verification won't in fact stop children from accessing pornographic sites, and have come up with Plan B, which is even worse than Plan A: "in order to make age verification technologies 'work,' some MPs want to block completely legal content from access by every UK citizen. It would have a massive impact on the free expression of adults across the UK. The impact for sexual minorities would be particularly severe."

Ars readers will be thoroughly familiar with all the arguments against such censorship—and against age verification—so I won't bother running through them here. Instead, I want to consider what will happen if the UK government goes ahead with its plans to bring in age verification, with or without censorship.

As the Open Rights Group noted, it will be impossible to stop at least a few young people from accessing porn sites despite age verification and Web blocks. That means they can download material and build up an offline store of it if they wish. Of course, once their friends find out about this handy source of forbidden material, they'll want a copy of everything. Thanks to the continuing collapse in storage prices, it turns out to be extremely easy to provide it.

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