Next month, the United Kingdom sees a major shift in its official attitude to online pornography with the coming into force of the Digital Economy Act 2017. From April 2018, the British Government will introduce an age-verification requirement for all pornographic websites. Anyone wishing to access such sites will have to prove they are over 18 years old.

So how will it work?

All pornography sites will be obliged to use age-verification software to block under 18s from accessing their content. What this will mean in practice is unclear. The government is leaving the means by which sites are made compliant with the new law in the hands of the multi-million-pound online pornography business.

Nevertheless, internet service providers will be expected to block any websites that do not comply with the new regulations, with the possibility of fines up to £250,000 ($350,000), or five percent of a business’s financial turnover, for those who do not comply. The British Board of Film and Classification — that is, the U.K. government body that decides on film classification and censorship — is overseeing the whole process.

So what is the scale of the problem that this legislation addresses?

Some statistics from just one pornographic website:

In 2016 alone, this one site got 23 BILLION visits. That is 729 people per second, or 64 million views a day — equating to roughly the population of the United Kingdom. In the same year, 91,980,225,000 videos on that same site were watched — the equivalent to 12.5 videos for every person on the planet. These videos took 4,599,000,000 hours to watch — that’s equivalent to 5,246 centuries. In fact, so much pornography was watched in 2016 on this one website alone that all the data used would fill 194,000,000 USB sticks. To get some idea of the consumption involved, if these sticks were put end to end they would wrap around the circumference of the moon.

As the man said, “Houston, we have a problem.”

The problem, and the moral, psychological and spiritual damage, is not just a concern for those addicted to these sites and their content. In 2007, internet security company McAfee did a study on “cybersquatting” and found that there is a one in 14 chance of a child typing in a misspelled URL and stumbling upon a pornographic website by accident. Because there is nothing to stop anyone from acquiring domains and creating pornographic sites, all that companies have to do is purchase deliberately misspelled or seemingly innocently named URLs in order to peddle their wares. Thereafter, anyone can accidentally end up on a pornographic website. A study done in 2008 found that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls had been exposed to pornography in their early adolescent years.

So the new U.K. legislation is principally intended to protect children from this digital leviathan that lurks a few clicks away on all computer devices, ready to corrupt any child.

For anyone who thinks that this is simply a moral or even a civil rights issue then one fact, from the aforementioned site with its countless visitors, should suffice to persuade otherwise. The most popular search term currently on that site is “incest.”

Whether the Digital Economy Act will prove effective in countering this threat is unclear. A worthy intention supported by legislation does not always translate into effective societal change. On this new legislation’s efficacy, for now at least, the jury is out.

What is certain is that any multi-million-pound business has its own power, and, to some degree, makes its own laws. Online pornography fits this profile. A number of years ago, in the days before the internet, there was a newsagent in London who, after he witnessed his daughter in the family shop having to sell pornographic magazines, resolved to cease trading in those publications. The shop owner did not expect what happened next. The general magazine distributor visited him. He explained that the shopkeeper was obliged to sell pornography, that pornography was part of a single sales package of newspapers and magazines. And, more importantly still, he insisted that it made good business sense: those pornographic titles sold well. The shopkeeper stood his ground. Then the distributor threatened that the delivery of all his other newspapers and magazines would be stopped at source if he continued in his refusal to sell pornography. The shopkeeper went public about this treatment and started a campaign against his intimidation. The distributor backed off. That was not the end of the matter, though. Other men visited the shopkeeper: men who were less well-mannered than the distributor, and altogether more menacing. These visitors were the emissaries of the pornographic business. Soon after shutting up his shop in the evenings, the shopkeeper found himself being followed home. The police were called. Eventually, the shopkeeper was left alone. He continues trading to this day with a large sign on his shop window stating that no pornography is sold in his shop. This is just one story, from over 20 years ago, about one man who ran a small family business and who dared to take on the pornography peddlers.

Support for the pornographers has come from the usual quarters. Predictably, some have claimed that the restrictions proposed are an infringement of privacy and an attack on freedom. Even more worryingly, The Daily Telegraph has reported in regard to the new legislation that: “A U.N. official warned that [the Digital Economy Act] could be a breach of human rights for failing to protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

Of course, the real issue in the coming months will be whether the new legislation has any impact. It looks to be a fight between an already over-stretched government department preoccupied with film censorship and a powerful, moneyed interest group with the best digital technology at its disposal.

When the Digital Economy Act was passed by Parliament, a British newspaper joked that viewers of pornography online would now have to show their passports. If only this were true. There is something about the digital age which means that so much that would not have been considered acceptable in the past because of commonly shared social mores is permissible in today’s anonymous cyber age. For the British this latest legal development is unlikely to be a case of “porn today, gone tomorrow” — still, one can but hope.