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Porn Sites in the U.K. Have More Time Before Forced Age Verification

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Webcam on computer monitorWestend61/Getty Images/Westend61

No porn, please. Well, maybe just a little bit more.

The U.K. government has stalled plans to introduce compulsory age checks for people who wish to view adult content online. Originally scheduled to begin in April, the laws are now scheduled to begin “by the end of the year,” though no precise date was given.

While there’s plenty of controversy surrounding the age check’s privacy issues (people would basically have to sign up to look at dirty pictures online), it’s also a financial concern for Websmasters. Any site that hosts adult content and does not have an age gate could face fines of up to $350,000.

Forced age verification, while drastic, is a notable step back from the original 2013 pledge by then-prime minister David Cameron to block online porn, unless people chose to opt in to receive it. That proposal was quietly abandoned amid concerns regarding the possible invasions of user privacy.

Forecasting the economic impact of the action on the adult entertainment industry isn’t an easy task, though. Globally, porn is a $97 billion industry, according to Kassia Wosick, assistant professor of sociology at New Mexico State University. At present, $10 billion to $12 billion comes from the United States, but it’s harder to determine how big a percentage the U.K. represents.

A 2006 study by Nielsen NetRatings, however, found Britain to be the world’s fastest-growing pornography market—with almost 40% of the country’s male population visiting porn sites at least once a year.

The government says the delay will give the British Board of Film Classification, which is responsible for rollout and enforcement of the law, time to draft guidelines, which will then need to be approved by Parliament. Once passed, there will then be a three-month delay before they’re enacted.

Our priority is to make the Internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right,” the government said in a statement.