Push for ID to watch porn online

Aussie porn fans could need a pass to prove their age when online, according to a new federal government report that outlines a number of measures that would act as a barrier to prevent kids from accessing internet porn and online gambling.

Widespread use of technology has led to children as young as eight increasingly accessing hard core porn and a House of Representatives inquiry into age verification for online wagering and online pornography has recommended a number of measures to help implement age verification technology.

Biometrics, a retail card with an online code and document verification services are some of the methods that will be explored in an attempt to ensure that the same age restrictions that are relevant in the real world, can also be applied online.

The retail card, for example, could be bought using identification at a shop where the purchaser would be supplied with a code to be submitted online.

 

Increasing numbers of children exposed to porn prompted the age verification inquiry.
Increasing numbers of children exposed to porn prompted the age verification inquiry.

As part of the new blueprint the eSafety Commissioner would lead the development of a road map for age verification for online pornographic material and the Digital Transformation Agency would develop standards.

Collective Shout's Melinda Liszewski, who put a submission into the inquiry, said the internet was the "wild west" and that it was about time real world standards were implemented.

"This has been an experiment carried out on a generation of young people and who knows the extent of the damage that has been done," she said.

"Children are getting distorted ideas of what sex looks like and it can lead to children engaging in sex at earlier ages. It teaches boys to be aggressive and teaches girls to have sex is to submit to these behaviours, even if they are painful."

Ms Liszewski said she had spoken to a mother recently whose young daughter had been using an ipad and came across pornographic material, via an app.

"Since then the child can't get the explicit scenes out of her head, she has had trouble sleeping. The mother has subsequently found that the girl has made several attempts to search for the material online, using explicit search terms.

"You can't unsee this stuff."

 

Porn is very readily accessible now. Picture: istock
Porn is very readily accessible now. Picture: istock

But other industry experts say it is almost an unsolvable problem, which is why the UK Government has recently abandoned a similar move.

Cyber safety expert Susan McLean said the only foolproof measure would be an official "Australia card" where everyone had a unique identifier, because any age verification technology would need the agreement of the porn platform.

"I think we need to do something as exposure to porn is extremely problematic but there is limited control on sites hosted off shore."

Content on social media sites would not be captured and many overseas sites would not comply with measures.

Similar recommendations were made for online gambling sites, prompted by concerns gambling had become readily accessible and could lead to problem gambling.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the agency was concerned about "the ease with which children can both inadvertently or deliberately access online pornography that is increasingly more violent and extreme."

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Pornography is widely available but age verification technology has yet to catch up.
Pornography is widely available but age verification technology has yet to catch up.

 

"Technological solutions that limit children's and young people's access to online pornography are an important facet in the arsenal to protect children and young people. But age verification is no silver bullet. The best firewall to accessing harmful content is parents," she said.

"eSafety will continue to do its utmost to limit children's and young people's exposure to online pornography within the current regulatory and resourcing arrangements, but we believe this has become a broader societal issue, where we all have a responsibility to play a role.

"Meanwhile, we will work across Government to undertake any new responsibilities bestowed upon us to the best of our capability, with adequate resourcing, moving forward."

Tamara Newlands, Executive Director, Australian charity eChildhood said children currently have 24/7 access to online pornography.

"Age verification puts a buffer in place at the source of the content. The same restrictions that are in place for children to access 18+ movies at the cinema or buying alcohol from a bottle shop, the same needs to apply online," she said.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the Government will consider the report's recommendations.

"There is no silver bullet or 'one size fits all' solution for protecting children online and the Government remains committed to developing a multifaceted approach to online safety involving industry, government, parents, teachers and carers."

 

Key points from eChildhood's submission to the inquiry

* It is estimated that one in three of all internet users in the world today are below the age of 18;

* 2017 Australian research 17 of 15-29-year-olds reflecting on first exposure indicated that 69% of boys and 23% of girls have seen pornography by age 13 or younger;

* 1.66 million boys and half a million girls in Australia (13 and under) are exposed to pornography;

* Most will see violent depictions of sex before they've had their first kiss;

* a third of students aged eight and under attempted to access online pornography in the past six months;

* Children displaying problematic sexual behaviours has been observed by 40.8% of educators.



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