Age verification for porn ‘doesn’t work’, expert warns

Age verification to try and limit what children can access online, a key element of government plans to address a scourge of domestic violence, doesn’t work, an expert says.

The government has said it would move ahead with an age verification trial online to limit access to graphic material such as pornography to prevent access for minors.

“The small technical detail is, it doesn’t work,” Vanessa Teague said.

The cryptographer from the Australian National University pointed to a court case against X, formerly Twitter, where the eSafety commissioner is trying to get the social media platform to take down graphic video of a stabbing globally.

X has argued the Australian authority doesn’t have the jurisdiction to enforce what its users in other countries see.

It’s unlikely porn sites would pander to an Australian request to mandate age verification technology, Dr Teague said.

Age verification for websites can bypassed with simple software. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“It’s focused on asking the porn sites all over the world to implement a nice little request from Australian law enforcement,” she said.

“You know, ‘could you please not let these people see your stuff’.”

Such verification could be easily bypassed with simple software, Dr Teague said.

“All that’s going to happen is more people learn to use a VPN,” she said, referring to virtual private networks that disguise the location or identity of the user.

“Everyone is really upset, everyone is really angry, everyone wants the government to do something.

“And that’s exactly when everyone gets sucked into scams. It sounds nice but it just doesn’t work.”

There were also issues about privacy and data retention, she said, pointing to the potential for massive leaks and hacks.

The online measures were part of a package of measures including $5000 payment to women fleeing violence agreed by a national cabinet of federal, state and territorial leaders this week.

The government was focusing on online measures to limit access to violent pornography being accessed by children in a few clicks, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

Misogynistic content being promoted on social media was also having an effect, he said.

“That has an impact on young minds and shaping what is normal and the tragedy here is that it has a devastating impact on young people,” he told ABC radio.

“It is also denigrating the nature of our relationships.”

The opposition has been calling for the government to adopt age verification technology to reduce the harm of graphic content and violence against women.

“Children growing up with access to dangerous, violent online content is a clear contributing factor to normalizing violence against women,” opposition communications spokesperson David Coleman said.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will host state and territory police ministers in Canberra on Friday to talk about violence prevention efforts.

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