Theresa May’s Tossing Tax

Amongst the Brexit drama it’s easy to miss that an extraordinary anti-freedom, anti-personal responsibility set of regulations under the Digital Economy Act come into full force next month. From April, any internet service will face fines and consequences if pornographic material can be accessed on them by anyone under the age of 18. This means if anyone wants to watch porn in the UK, they will have to do one of three things…

  1. Give your credit card details to a government approved company
  2. Buy a Government approved porn pass from a newsagent for £8.99
  3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

This means that anyone under the age of 18 will not be able to access pornography safely. Teenagers will have to either nick their parents credit cards, get an older person to buy a porn pass for them, or download the kind of VPN software used by dissidents living under authoritarian regimes, drug dealers, and child pornographers. Sexting will undoubtedly rise, with a ban making it easier for teenagers to send explicit pictures to each other than finding some on the internet, raising a swathe of new child safety concerns. Any politician thinking teenagers simply won’t watch porn is living in a fantasy world…

The consequences for platforms like Twitter or Reddit, some users of which post pornographic content, are disconcertingly ambiguous. When this has happened on some sites in the past, indiscriminate crack downs have accidentally hit vital resources for struggling teens, particularly LGBT services…

Quite apart from the child safety concerns, adults will also be driven to VPN use and the dark web audience will massively expand. People will be rightly concerned about handing over credit card details to porn companies’ age verification checkers. The leading age verification service, AgeID, is owned by the company that also owns PornHub, YouPorn and RedTube. Creating an enormous database of literally millions of credit card details linked to pornographic preferences. What could possibly go wrong..?

Having to humiliatingly purchase a government approved ‘porn licence’ is the kind of nonsense Guido would expect from an authoritarian regime. Instead of sheepishly shuffling in to a newsagents to hand over their £9 ‘Tossing Tax’, less technologically savvy adults will inevitably stumble into giving out their credit card details to nefarious actors, or downloading viruses instead of legitimate VPNs. This legislation is a fraudster’s dream…

The electoral implications will be bigger than politicians realise. The Tories suffered huge consequences from younger voters over fox hunting. Thanks to the prudish cowardice of most MPs, there hasn’t been a big uproar over this egregiously draconian legislation yet. But self reported polls suggest that three quarters of men admit to watching porn and the true number is likely to be higher. If politicians are brave enough there could be huge electoral mileage in a campaign to Repeal the Porn Laws…


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