This article was originally published in The Times, 11/2/2023: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/online-safety-bill-must-have-age-che…
Sajid Javid, the former home secretary, has joined more than 40 Tory MPs in calling for tougher laws to stop children accessing pornography.
A total of 44 Tory MPs are demanding amendments to the Online Safety Bill that would introduce strict age checks on both social media and pornography websites.
The government is planning to enact age checks through secondary legislation, rather than directly through the online safety bill. The MPs fear that this will result in curbs being delayed until after the next election.
Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, published research showing that half of children have viewed pornography online by the age of 14
Those pushing for the tougher checks include two former home secretaries, Javid and Priti Patel, and three former culture secretaries, Javid, Maria Miller and Baroness Morgan of Cotes.
Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, published research last month showing that half of children have viewed pornography online by the age of 14 and one in ten have seen it by the age of nine.
Javid, who has also served as a culture secretary, said: “Shortly after being appointed culture secretary in 2014, I came to understand the shocking scale at which children are accessing explicit adult content online.
“Like me, every parent would have been sickened by the recent children’s commissioner report detailing how children as young as seven years old are encountering hardcore pornography online. Children should be able to use the internet safely without seeing this material, yet too many companies have failed to clean up their act. We have a real opportunity to help protect children online. We cannot afford to fail.”
The MPs are backing a series of amendments tabled by Lord Bethell of Romford, a former conservative health minister, that would introduce strict age checks within six months of the online safety bill coming into law.
Companies that fail to introduce age verification using documents such as passports or driving licences would face fines of up to 10 per cent of turnover.
Miriam Cates, a Tory MP who is co-ordinating efforts in the Commons, said: “I understand why politicians find it difficult to talk about pornography but when nearly 50 per cent of young people believe that girls expect or enjoy violence during sex we have a moral duty to act to end this appalling destruction of childhood.”