Such occasions are natural opportunities to pause, reflect and take stock of where we’re at, both as an organisation and as a society for which perhaps our attitude towards protecting children from pornography is a useful litmus test.

The idea for CEASE came in 2017, which happened to be the year that the Digital Economy Act stipulated age verification processes for all online pornography sites. However, this law was never implemented. Instead, in 2019 it was quietly dropped with the promise that the measure would be included in the more comprehensive Online Safety Bill.

The reality was that few people seemed to care or even notice the U-turn. Press coverage around the proposed age verification laws had been predominantly negative: it was (wrongly) branded a “porn ban” and an outrageous assault on privacy and free speech. Somehow, many people had come to regard instantaneous, unfettered access to free online pornography as a right, regardless of its implications for children. And frankly, the idea of any kind of internet regulation was more novelty than no-brainer.

We’ll never know for sure why Boris Johnson dropped age verification, but with a general election looming we can infer that he imagined the move would win him votes, not lose them.

I’m not sure the same could be said today. It’s been encouraging to observe the shift in public attitudes towards age verification even in such a short space of time. Increasingly, it’s being recognised not as a pesky inconvenient but as the essential child protection measure that it really is.

Perhaps this is because the impact of pornography on children and young people is increasingly hard to ignore or deny. In spite of growing concerns and interventions, ‘rape culture’ is still epidemic in our schools and universities, along with soaring rates of sexual harassment, bullying and coercion. In 2018, one third of all cases of child sexual abuse involved other children but just last year, the figure had increased to a staggering 50%.

2019, the year that age verification was dropped in the Digital Economy Act, happened to be the year that CEASE hired its first Chief Executive and officially registered as a charity. Since then, we have focused a great deal of our attention on ensuring that this time round, age verification would happen. Working tirelessly with a dedicated, close-knit coalition, we drafted amendments that would ensure the new laws were sufficiently robust, well-regulated and implemented in a timely fashion.

Last year, the Online Safety Act passed into law. In it were amendments on age verification that we had fought hard for. We could not have wished for a better outcome.

Currently, we are contributing to a new consultation the government is holding on the broader issues of online pornography regulation, something that had been overlooked for years.

It seems that CEASE was born at the turning of the tide. The staggering progress that’s occurred over the past half-decade means that we can face the future with hope and optimism. Change is not just possible, but perhaps even inevitable.

The fight is bound to be fierce so thank you all for standing with us. Your support means so much.