French regulator calls on court to block five pornographic websites

The regulator's decision to bring the case before the French courts follows a series of formal notices issued on 13 December last year, in which the sites were given 15 days to comply. [AndrewFall/Shutterstock]

The French audiovisual regulator has filed a lawsuit demanding the blocking of five pornographic websites, which have been on notice since mid-December for failing to ensure that their content is not accessible to minors. EURACTIV France reports.

The public authority for the regulation of audiovisual and digital communication (Arcom) had already called on these websites to comply, but to no avail.

Its president, Roch-Olivier Maistre, decided on Tuesday (8 March) to refer the matter to the Paris judicial court, asking it to issue an order requiring the main internet service providers to prevent access to five adult sites: Pornhub, Tukif, Xhamster, Xnxx and Xvideos.

The regulatory authority is basing its requests on a law of 30 July 2020 that specifies that age confirmation with one click when entering a pornographic website is not effective in restricting access to minors.

The regulator’s decision to bring the case before the French courts comes after a series of formal notices issued on 13 December last year, in which the sites were given 15 days to comply.

Contacted by EURACTIV, Pornhub said at the time that it “has dedicated itself to developing industry-leading safeguards for the protection of its community. 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.”

Pornhub says French warnings over age limits 'encroaches upon privacy of adults'

Pornhub has criticised France’s broadcasting regulator for sending warnings on Monday (13 December) to five porn-hosting websites over easy accessibility for minors. According to the pornography giant, the decision “encroaches upon the privacy of adults” and ignores most of the industry that remains uncontrolled. EURACTIV France reports.

Should the Paris court rule in favour of the regulator’s request, these five sites would no longer be accessible from French territory.

Arcom’s president also warned that he would take further legal action in France if so-called “mirror sites” that replicate the content of the blocked sites were to be created. If this were the case, he would also demand that search engines dereference the addresses of these newly created websites.

Arcom has also sent a request for comments to the publisher of the Youporn and Redtube websites, threatening a similar formal notice, the French regulator has confirmed.

Age verification

Minors accessing pornographic content and, in particular, the technical means to prevent this from happening, has been a topic of debate in France for several months.

Last June, the French data watchdog known as CNIL warned that “age verification by publishers who themselves distribute pornographic content must not lead them to collect directly identifying data on their users”.

This collection of information on “their real or perceived sexual orientation” goes against the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the privacy watchdog added.

In its response to EURACTIV, Pornhub said it was relying heavily on “available parental control technologies” as “the most effective and practical way to prevent underage people from viewing adult content, while also protecting user privacy, is to require all platforms in the adult content industry to abide by the most rigorous safety and security policies.”

On 17 February, French MPs and senators agreed on a law requiring that electronic devices like computers, phones, gaming consoles and tablets sold in the country have parental controls pre-installed.

This tool will not be installed by default but will be proposed to users when they first use it. The final version of the text also provides that the personal data of minors “collected or generated during activation” may not be used for commercial purposes.

Lawmakers also decided that such an obligation will not apply to equipment placed on the market without an operating system. However, it will apply to second-hand equipment, meaning dealers will therefore have to ensure that parental controls are in place.

France 'very confident' Brussels will not oppose new parental control bill

The French government notified the European Commission last week of a new bill aimed at ensuring electronic devices like computers, phones, gaming consoles and tablets sold in the country have parental controls pre-installed. One of the bill’s authors is “very confident” Brussels would not oppose the proposed law.  EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Luca Bertuzzi]

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe