A Bill which aims to control the online sale of age-restricted goods will be presented to the House of Lords on 8th May 2009 for its second reading by Baroness Doreen Massey, Chair of the All-Party Children's group.
Baroness Massey's Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill is calling for all online retailers who sell age-restricted goods to establish a system to allow them to determine whether or not a person purchasing the products
meet the legal minimum age.
The main products which would be affected by the Bill are: knives; alcohol; tobacco; some video games and DVDs; solvents and spray paints.
The provisions of Baroness Massey's Bill are in line with the Gambling Act 2005 which has resulted in remote gambling operators now using specialist companies to carry out verification or online databases to verify the age of the buyer, rather
than users merely ticking a box to confirm that they are over 18, as had previously been common practice.
A proposal that will force online retailers to take extra steps to ensure that young people cannot buy or access inappropriate goods or material will moves one step closer to becoming law. The Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age
Verification) Bill was set receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.
The Bill proposes making it a requirement for the providers of goods and services and the providers of specified facilities enabling the purchase of such goods and services to take reasonable steps, in certain circumstances, to establish the
age of customers making such purchases . The proposed law refers to goods which it is already illegal to sell to people under the specified ages, such as 16 for cigarettes and 18 for alcohol.
It had previously been introduced in the House of Commons but ran out of Parliamentary time.
Some peers in the Lords raised objections to the Bill, though. The Earl of Erroll said that concerns over payments technology and over the scope of the Bill should cause concern: We must allow young people to buy things online. Many things are
only obtainable that way nowadays - certainly the better bargains, he said. We must not outlaw methods of payment that will completely stop them buying anything.
The Earl of Erroll also warned that the Bill was in fact not just about age-restricted goods but gave Government the power to bar access to other materials: The second major problem refers to unconstrained powers. Clause 1(2) provides that the
Secretary of State can make regulations that could extend to things that are not covered by legal ages or goods and services covered under current laws. The legal duty to comply with these laws already exists, and I do not think that Parliament
should micromanage people in how they do these things. We should not be passing laws just to send a message. That is not a good idea.
Elspeth Howe has tabled amendments to the Children and Families Bill which forces ISPs to block all hardcore porn sites unless the subscriber opts to receive adult content AND the website being accessed implements onerous age verification
The required age verification is very onerous, eg requires users to submit credit card details (debit cards wont do). in reality websites cannot function with such restrictions as people aren't going to type in masses of personal details just to
take a look at an adult website.
The amendment is somewhat toned down from the ludicrous Online Safety Bill which would impose similar age verification on a wider range of websites with content not suitable for children. That bill defines adult content as containing harmful
and offensive materials from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected;
The Children and Families Bill amendment defines adult content as material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen. The authorities would like to think that hardcore porn fits
the bill, but if it did, then we would already have millions of seriously impaired young people on our hands.
Elspeth Howe's amendment to the Children and Families Bill reads:
Insert the following new Clause--
Duty to provide an internet service that protects children
(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(2) Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of
subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(3) The conditions are--
(a) the subscriber "opts-in" to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a
user is able to access adult content.
(4) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the--
(a) filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003; and
(b) age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content.
(5) The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.
(6) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4).
(7) In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time,
the internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator--
(a) was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and
(b) acting in good faith.
(8) In this section--
"adult content" means material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen;
"opts-in" means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content."
Comment: Elspeth Howe and Max Mosley
26th January 2013. From Alan
No, not together, although that might be fun, since the absurd Lady Howe seems to fancy herself as the national dominatrix.
This protecting children crap really needs to be resisted for two reasons.
First, it seeks to protect children by treating everyone as a child.
Secondly, it is deeply insulting and patronising to kids. A little over half a century ago, I became aware that my girl contemporaries were taking on a different, and interesting, shape. I began to research this phenomenon through two types of
literature. There were publications designed to assist the amateur and professional photographer , replete with pictures of unclothed ladies, each marked with information like F5.6 at 1/125 - really useful to someone who had used
nothing more complex than a box Brownie. And there was Health and Efficiency, designed for a readership of dedicated naturists. The innocence of naturism was emphasised by ensuring that some of the pics contained those most innocent of creatures,
I needed no greater subterfuge to buy these magazines than turning up the collar of my mac to cover the tie of my school uniform. I very much hope that the teenage lad of 2014 is sufficiently resourceful to thwart the ridiculous Elspeth Howe's
crackpot efforts to protect him from naughty pictures.
Where Mosley is concerned, I have mixed views. While I generally oppose censorship, I'm aware that in this case someone got outed as a spanko, because he was associated with the women, and was sacked as a result. I think the balance here comes
down on the side of protecting the identity of sex workers.
Plenty of peers stepped up to support Elspeth's Howe's proposals for onerous internet censorship but the amendment was defeated by 153 votes to 118 after the Government pointed out that it had decided that the way forwards was an agreement with
ISPs for voluntary self regulation and that legally imposed censorship was not part of that agreement (but exists as a future threat should the ISPs not achieve enough of what the government want)
This result rather suggests that Howe's similar private member's bill, The Online Safety Bill, has little chance of proceeding.
Baroness Northover (LD and government spokesperson in the Lords):
The debate on the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, was passionate, committed and informed. We all agree, as my noble friend Lord Gardiner, made clear, on our huge concern for the issues that we are discussing. The noble Baroness, Lady
Howe, and my noble friend Lady Benjamin have made very clear the dangerous implications of exposure to inappropriate online material. We share the common objective to make sure that children and young people are as safe as possible when they are
operating online. To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, we support the principles of the amendment, rather than its measures, as she put it.
I read with great interest the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, to the debate on that Bill on 6 December. Responding for the Labour Front Bench, he showed great sympathy, as one would expect, for what the noble Baroness, Lady
Howe, was arguing, but he noted,
"it needs more thinking",
"to make it fit for purpose and to guard against unintended consequences".--[Official Report, 6/12/13, col. 532.]
He rightly put his finger on our shared desire to counter the risks of the internet, and the difficulty of ensuring that we do so effectively.
My noble friend Lord Lucas has pointed out some of the technological changes which already pose challenges to the way the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has drawn up her proposals. This field is moving fast, and new social media emerge all the time.
It is for that reason that we believe that the best way forward is to challenge the industry, which knows this field best, to engage and to take responsibility. I emphasise strongly that we do not rule out legislation, but right now we believe
that the approach that we are taking is likely to be the most effective. An industry-led, self-regulatory approach will have most impact, allow greatest flexibility for innovation and is likely to be faster than any regulatory measures.
Legislation can rarely adapt and change quickly enough to respond to the constantly evolving online environment.
We also need to bear in mind the global nature of this industry. That is why it is vital that the industry engages. Self-regulation allows a broad range of interested parties to participate and, due to the global nature of the internet, is the
best way for organisations to secure agreement. We remain committed to this. It is already working well, with good progress being made to develop internet safety measures, as noble Lords have referred to.