Banks could block porn site payments

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UK- from www.dailymail.co.uk – Banks could be banned from processing payments to websites that fail to protect children from pornography.

The proposal would see hundreds of overseas companies penalised for failing to take adequate measures to ensure their customers are adults.

Ministers are considering the plans because of frustration that foreign pornography merchants have previously been out of reach.

They want to block the tide of online images and videos being accessed by young people through computers, games consoles and smartphones.

The latest payments proposal was made by the Authority for Television On Demand (Atvod) to Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

It urged the Government to target banks and payment processors ‘which facilitate the provision to UK consumers’ of hardcore pornography without age verification.

It believes that blocking payments – estimated to total more than £180million a year from British customers alone – would be a significant step towards child internet safety.

Under the proposal, banks and other payment processors would receive a blacklist of all companies making pornography available without proper age verification.

The banks would then be responsible for ensuring that no British customer could make a payment to any of those companies.

Pornography companies complain that age verification is too expensive to implement effectively.

Ofcom, which delegates powers to Atvod, recently began fining UK-based pornography websites which fail to verify the age of users.

Last week it fined Playboy £100,000 for a ‘repeated and reckless’ failure to protect people under the age of 18.

Other companies escape penalties by moving overseas while continuing to make the same extreme content available to anyone in Britain.

Peter Johnson, of Atvod, said those companies are still potentially in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.

He admitted that the most popular porn sites often offer free hardcore pornographic images and video clips.

He added: ‘Banks will deploy lots of arguments as to why they shouldn’t be the gatekeepers for this.

‘But following the money and making it difficult for these sites to earn it would be a powerful step towards reducing children’s exposure to hardcore pornography.’

Tory MP Claire Perry, who advises David Cameron on preventing the sexualisation of childhood, welcomed the proposal.

She said: ‘Recruiting the financial services into the attempt to try and make websites more responsible is a very, very good idea. There is a collective responsibility here.’

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the report will be ‘considered carefully’ as part of a recent communications review.

Children’s charities, including the NSPCC, wanted users to be forced to contact their internet service provider for access to pornography.

But the Government has indicated it will instead ask providers to ‘actively encourage’ parents to turn on filters that protect their children.

The move led to claims that ministers were putting the profits of internet giants ahead of the safety of vulnerable youngsters.

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