'The information watchdog has been accused of ‘infantilising’ web users, in a draconian new code designed to make the internet safer for children.
Web firms will be forced to introduce strict new age checks on their websites – or treat all their users as if they are children, under proposals published by the Information Commissioner’s Office today.
The rules are so stringent that critics fear people could end up being forced to demonstrate their age for virtually every website they visit, or have the services that they can access limited as if they are under 18.
They may have to log in every time they visit an online shop, browse holidays online or look at commercial news websites, critics argue.
Critics also warned that the rules would severely damage the online advertising business, threatening the provision of free web services such as online news websites and chat forums including Mumsnet and TripAdvisor.
Companies that do not stick to the code face fines of up to 4 per cent of their global turnover – £1.67billion in the case of Facebook.
The radical proposals are designed to protect children using the internet, according to the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.
Baroness Kidron – a campaigner for child safety online who was instrumental in ensuring the code is backed by law – said: ‘For too long we have failed to recognise children’s rights and needs online, with tragic outcomes.
‘I firmly believe in the power of technology to transform lives, be a force for good and rise to the challenge of promoting the rights and safety of our children. But ... it must consider the best interests of children, not simply its own commercial interests.’
But experts fear the measures could badly backfire.'
Read more: Web shake-up could force ALL websites to treat us like children: Users could be made to prove their age for almost every page they visit under controversial new plans
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