All News

Letter to editor regarding age verification and media commentary in relation to draft Online Safety Code

Published on


Copy of a letter sent to the editor of the Irish Times by Executive Chair Jeremy Godfrey on January 25th.

Karlin Lillington’s technology column of January 25th in the Irish Times badly mischaracterises Coimisiún na Meán’s proposals in relation to age verification by online video-sharing platforms.

She accuses us of proposing to create a porn user register and repeats baseless online claims that people would have to upload their identity documents and facial scans, with porn sites retaining this information for six years. She even suggests that this could be required when people only want to view cat videos.

She rightly says that such a proposal would be bonkers. We agree. Which is why we have neither considered it nor proposed it.

There is ample evidence of the harm caused by children having easy access to online pornography, but measures to reduce this access need to respect the privacy of users and interfere as little as possible with the ability of adults to view content that is lawful.

Coimisiún na Meán is currently consulting on a draft Online Safety Code for video-sharing platforms, including age verification measures. Our proposal is that video-sharing platforms based in Ireland should not knowingly show pornographic content to users, unless they have verified that the user concerned is an adult.

Most platforms in Ireland do not permit pornography, and this proposal will have no implications for them or their users. Even platforms that do permit pornography would need only to verify the age of those users who wish to view it. Users whose interests are limited to cat videos would have no need to verify their age.

We are not proposing to be prescriptive about the age verification technique that platforms must use before showing pornography to users. It is for platforms to choose a technique that ensures children are not normally able to access pornography, and to implement it in a way that complies with the GDPR. Uploading documents and/or a live selfie is one such technique, when accompanied by appropriate privacy protections.

But merely asking a user to declare they are over 18 is not good enough to stop children from accessing pornography. This is a widespread concern across Europe, and applies to adult sites in other Member States. We are therefore working with the European Commission and our counterparts across Europe to ensure that there is a pan-European approach to tackling this issue.

We are committed to improving online safety, as part of a thriving, diverse and safe media landscape. While regulating licensed broadcasters is different to regulating online platforms, the end-goal of ensuring that audiences can access pluralistic, culturally, linguistically and socially relevant content, while being protected from harm, remains the same. We are focused on delivering on our mission for the benefit of everyone in Ireland and across Europe.