French court rules on plan to block porn sites for failure to protect minors

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A court in Paris will decide next month whether a French regulator has the right to block access to international porn sites in France, unless those sites can guarantee that they can deny access to those sites to minors under the age of 18.

Following a complaint from children’s rights associations, the French audiovisual and digital regulator Arcom notified five porn sites, including Pornhub, in December 2021, requiring them to prove that they were blocking access to minors in accordance with French July 2020 law.

An Arcom official said the regulator had since seen no indication that the sites were putting in place systems that could actually block access to minors, and decided to take legal action.

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The four other sites challenged by the regulator are Tukif, Xhamster, Xnxx, and Xvideos.

The regulator said it wanted the court to order French internet service providers such as Orange, Free and SFR to block access to these porn sites on French territory until they have a solid system in place to block access to minors.

At a hearing on Tuesday, lawyers for the porn sites argued that the court had no jurisdiction to rule on the case because the law did not conform to the constitution. The court will now decide on Oct. 4 whether it can rule on the matter or whether the case should go to the appeals court, an Arcom official said.

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Currently, porn sites in France only need to display a disclaimer button that users can click to say they are over 18, but there is no verification of their actual age.

An Arcom official said the sites — all of which are free — should propose a free and reliable blocking system.

A lawyer for PornHub publisher MG Freesites did not immediately answer the call for comment. She was quoted on French radio franceinfo as saying that verifying the age of an internet user is technically and legally impossible.

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In recent months, Arcom has also made several other porn sites aware, including YouPorn, one of the world’s top porn sites, the Arcom official said.

French children’s rights associations have filed several lawsuits to block access to online pornography for minors, arguing that current age verification standards make it too easy for children to access the websites.

(REUTERS)