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Christian charities have welcomed the passing of the Online Safety Bill which contains measures to protect children from internet pornography.

After years of delays, the bill has now passed its final stage in the House of Lords and will soon become law.

It introduces mandatory age checks for people trying to access online pornography, including on social media platforms. 

There are significant penalties for sites that fail to comply, with fines of up to £18 million or 10 per cent of global annual revenue, whichever is biggest. 

Other harmful content covered by the law includes drugs, weapons, revenge porn, self-harm and suicide.

State regulator Ofcom will be responsible for enforcing the new laws.

CARE, which has spent years campaigning for age checks, welcomed the passing of the bill. 

Ross Hendry, CARE CEO, said that pornography was having a “devastating impact” on children and young people.

He said it was “deeply sad” that protections were not put into place sooner as he called for “fast action” to ensure that the new measures are enforced.

“With the implementation of age checks soon to be achieved, we are within touching distance of a vital reform that will help protect Britain’s children,” he said. 

“Most younger children encounter pornography online by accident. Robust age verification measures will help prevent the youngest and most vulnerable kids being exposed to content that is disturbing and damaging to them. For older children, the impact of pornography is evident in the alarming rise of sexual harassment in schools.

“Our societal response to this issue must involve curbing young people’s access to porn. Pornographic sites glorify sexual violence and amplify toxic attitudes towards women and girls.”

The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly gave a cautious welcome to the bill’s “much-needed protections for children online”. 

“We know all too well that there is a difference between a bill being passed and its measures being enforced,” he said. 

“Similar measures were passed six years ago in the Digital Economy Act 2017 but were never implemented.

“Ofcom have been regulating video-sharing platforms for effective age verification since 2020 and despite persistent failures, not a single fine has yet been issued. It is imperative that this time they show they mean business.”

He welcomed the decision earlier to drop a “legal but harmful” clause that The Christian Institute and others had warned could lead to censorship. 

He cautioned, “Institute supporters played a big part the clause being axed, and we can all be thankful that they did. But once again it’s up to Ofcom to ensure that vague terms of service and filtering aren’t now used as alternative tools to censor Christian content. We’ll be watching to see it carries out its role effectively.”

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