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The regulation of internet pornography: What a survey of under‐18s tells us about the necessity for and potential efficacy of emerging legislative approaches

Thurman, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-3909-9565 & Obster, F. (2021). The regulation of internet pornography: What a survey of under‐18s tells us about the necessity for and potential efficacy of emerging legislative approaches. Policy & Internet, 13(3), pp. 415-432. doi: 10.1002/poi3.250


In 2017, the UK Parliament passed an Act requiring legal pornographic websites to implement ‘robust’ age verification checks. Although the Act inspired lawmakers elsewhere to propose similar legislation, it was never enacted, in part because it did not cover social media platforms. Instead, the UK government has turned to its Online Harms White Paper—which does target social media platforms—to protect children from online pornography. There is, however, scant evidence on the media platforms and technologies children use to access pornography. To fill this knowledge gap, we conducted a survey of 16‐ and 17‐year‐olds in the United Kingdom. The results show that more (63%) had seen pornography on social media platforms than on pornographic websites (47%), suggesting the UK government was right to target such platforms in its latest proposals. However, pornography was much more frequently viewed on pornographic websites than on social media, showing how important the regulation of such sites remains. Furthermore, our finding that 46% of 16‐ and 17‐year‐olds had used a virtual private network or Tor browser adds weight to concerns that restrictions on legal internet pornography—such as age verification checks—imposed by a single country may be circumvented by those the restrictions are designed to protect.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors. Policy & Internet published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Policy Studies Organization This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Publisher Keywords: adolescents, age verification, Digital Economy Act 2017, internet regulation, Online Harms White, online pornography, VPNs, young people, 未成年人, 年龄验证, 2017年《数字经济法案, 互联网监管, 网络危害白皮书, 网络色情, 虚拟专用网络, adolescentes, verificación de edad, Ley de Economía Digital de 2017, regulación de Internet, Libro Blanco de Daños en Línea, pornografía en línea
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
SWORD Depositor:
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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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