The French government announced this week it will block five of the world’s leading pornography websites beginning Wednesday, unless each site implements protective measures to guarantee all visitors are at least 18 years old.
France’s Higher Audiovisual Council is giving the platforms until the end of the day Tuesday to implement the changes, the Daily Mail reported. The council is attempting to force the sites to come into compliance with a law introduced last year requiring age verification for adult content.
The purpose of the new requirement is to protect children.
“Children faced by such content can suffer lasting shock at the very least,” the council said.
Justine Atlan, director of the child safety association e-Enfrance, told the U.K.-based outlet, “It is important to put pornography sites under pressure so they cannot continue to flout the legal framework to which they have themselves agreed. The protection of children online is in no way contradictory to individual freedoms.”
Germany has taken similar action against pornography websites. The country’s Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media similarly ordered smut sites to implement age-verification technology, Wired reported in July.
Lawmakers in Britain are expected to debate the matter soon. A cross-party parliamentary committee announced in mid-December they would advocate for the forthcoming Draft Online Safety Bill, which includes similar protections for kids trying to access pornography.
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As far as the French age-verification law, passed unanimously in July of last year, the method of verification will be left up to the companies owning the pornography sites, according to Politico.
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to protect children from pornography. In January of 2020, several tech companies, internet service providers, and pornography producers signed a voluntary charter pledging to guarantee minors can’t access adult content.
“Protecting our children and teenagers online means taking them away from inappropriate or dangerous content, from violence, hatred, and pornography,” Macron stated in November, according to the Associated Press.
The world’s largest pornography website, Pornhub, opposes the age-verification requirement, arguing it encroaches on users’ right to privacy.
Pornhub claimed it “has dedicated itself to developing industry-leading safeguards for the protection of its community,” adding, “French regulators should strive to emulate that commitment, rather than implementing plans that infringe upon the privacy of adults and leave large areas of the adult industry completely unchecked.”
All of this comes as pressure against Pornhub has been mounting for a couple of years, many arguing the site has knowingly hosted child sexual abuse material, more commonly l known as child pornography.
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