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

Contacted by EURACTIV, Pornhub said it was "dedicated to developing state-of-the-art safeguards for the protection of its community". [Stenko Vlad/Shutterstock]

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.

In its letter of formal notice, France’s regulatory body dealing with the audiovisual sector gave 15 days to the websites Pornhub, Xvideos, Xhamster, Xnxx, and Tukif to comply with a law of 30 July 2020 that specifies age confirmation with one click when entering a pornographic website is not effective at restricting access to minors.

If the websites do not comply with the notice, the Superior Audiovisual Council could ask the president of the Paris judicial court to take a binding decision. The court will then issue an order to access providers to make these porn-hosting platforms inaccessible on French territory, according to the decree published last October.

Contacted by EURACTIV, Pornhub said it was “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.”

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Age verification

With the simple declaration system no longer sufficient to access pornographic websites, online age verification becomes problematic.

“We have always largely favoured the comfort of consuming adult pornography. Today, this ends up being in contradiction with the protection of minors online,” Justine Atlan, director of the e-Enfance association, told EURACTIV.

“The protection of children online is in no way contradictory to individual freedoms,” said Atlan, stressing that bringing together the issues of privacy and the need for at least partial identification is a particularly sensitive issue.

In June 2020, the government ruled out the possibility of using a public platform like FranceConnect to access pornographic sites.

Data protection issues

More recently, France’s data protection watchdog known as CNIL has warned that “age verification by publishers who themselves distribute pornographic content must not lead them to collect directly identifying data from their users” and that this collection of information on “their real or supposed sexual orientation” would go against the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The data protection body also said it was against the collection of official proof of identity by companies or analysing a user’s browsing history to estimate their age.

According to the organisation, a scheme that would rely on a trusted third-party entity based on a double anonymity mechanism would be a “preferable” alternative. The entity would verify proof of age and then transmit the green light to the website’s publisher.

In its response to EURACTIV, Pornhub also says it is banking 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.”

A bill, tabled at the start of November, aims to ensure electronic devices like computers, phones, gaming consoles, and tablets sold in the country have parental controls pre-installed. Its main aim is to ensure the activation or non-activation of such controls on all digital devices is an obligatory step when first using such devices.

The bill’s authors are “very confident” Brussels would not oppose the proposed law, which is also supported at the highest level of the French government

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

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[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/ Alice Taylor]

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