Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Illegal pornography, abuse and exploitation to be investigated by new reviewer [November 2023]

The press release issued by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on 1 December 2023.

Porn industry to be scrutinised to assess the damage it causes individuals and society.

  • Pornography review will advise government on ways to tackle harmful impact of pornography on viewers and how abuse and exploitation is addressed in the modern industry.
  • review will also assess law enforcement for online porn and whether more needs to be done to tackle illegal pornography.
  • Baroness Gabby Bertin appointed as independent lead reviewer, bringing expertise in tackling violence against women and girls to government review.

The porn industry will be scrutinised by a dedicated reviewer who has been appointed to assess the damage it causes individuals and society.

Baroness Bertin will look at abuse, exploitation and trafficking in the pornography industry, pornography’s impact on viewers, and ways to bolster law enforcement to help tackle illegal pornographic content will also be examined in the Pornography Review, as part of new objectives published today (Friday 1 December).

The review will build on the government’s work to take the long-term decisions for a better future for our children and grandchildren through the Online Safety Act, by stopping children from accessing pornography online by requiring services to establish the age of their users, including through age verification and age estimation tools.

It will review how viewing pornography impacts users of all ages, including emerging challenges from AI generated pornography. It will also review both the current rules placed upon the pornography industry and other services that host pornographic content, and whether law enforcers have the tools they need to identify and tackle illegal pornographic content.

The review will examine how we can help the police identify exploitation and abuse in the industry, as well as identifying what barriers there are to enforcing the law and punishing those committing offences.

In particular, the review has been tasked to consider the links between the pornography industry and the prevalence of human trafficking and exploitation and users’ attitudes towards women and girls. It will then recommend what can be done to tackle this, including improving reporting and identification.

The review will then recommend to government what more could be done to address these challenges and provide support and guidance to those who need it on the potentially harmful impacts of pornography.

To lead the review, Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has today appointed Baroness Bertin, who has worked consistently to tackle violence against women and girls, now sitting as Vice Chair of the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse.

The review will also draw on expertise from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, external experts and the pornography industry to look at the existing regulation and whether the existing criminal offences are adequately enforced online as they are offline.

Secretary of State for Innovation, Technology and Science, Michelle Donelan said:

We’re already making the UK the safest place to be online with our world-leading Online Safety Act and are building on that with an unrelenting focus on safety and education by launching the Pornography Review.

Baroness Bertin will bring valuable experience to the process, leading on investigating how exploitation and abuse is tackled in the industry, and to examine the potentially harmful impact of pornography.

Pornography Review lead reviewer, Baroness Bertin said:

I am delighted to have been asked to lead this review. The damaging impact that extreme pornography is having on society cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. We owe it to our children and indeed to the whole of society to put the guard rails back in place.

The past two decades have seen a dramatic change in the way we consume media and interact with content online. Pornography regulation now needs to reflect this change.  The ease with which people can access harmful and illegal pornography is having a devastating impact on many areas of our lives but It is particularly damaging and degrading to women and girls.  A key aspect of the review will be assessing the links between pornography, exploitation and a culture of violence towards women and girls.

I am determined that this review will ensure laws and regulations governing a dramatically changed pornography industry are once again fit for purpose.

Notes to editors

The objectives for the review as set out in the terms of reference are to:

  1. Understand the prevalence and harmful impact of illegal pornography online, and the impact of other forms of legal pornography including emerging themes like AI-generated pornography, its impact on users, and on viewer’s attitudes to violence against women and girls.
  2. Assess the public’s awareness and understanding of existing regulation and legislation of pornography.
  3. Consider the current rules in place to regulate the pornography industry, comparing online and offline laws.
  4. Determine if law enforcers and the justice system are responding to illegal pornography sufficiently, and if change is needed.
  5. Find out how prevalent human trafficking and exploitation is in the industry, before recommending how to identify and tackle this.
  6. Use this knowledge to set out what more can be done to provide those who need it with guidance on the potential harmful impact of pornography.

Read the Review’s Terms of Reference in full (PDF, 161KB).