France and Germany’s crackdown on online porn intensified at the beginning of September 2022, with courts in the two countries pushing ahead with measures to implement or maintain porn bans.
Lawyers for the porn sites Tukif, Xhamster, XNXX and XVideos argued in a Paris court that the court was not authorised to oversee the sites challenged by Arcom, France’s audiovisual and digital regulator. Arcom, acting after complaints from child protection organizations, claimed that the porn sites were not taking sufficient measures to prevent minors from accessing the sites.
Lawyers representing the porn sites argue that the challenge was not constitutional, reported Reuters. On October 4 the court is set to decide whether it can rule on the issue or whether the case needs to be sent to appeals court.
As well as the four porn sites represented in court, Pornhub also faces being blocked in France if the legal challenge is sustained and blocks implemented. The porn sites had been warned that they needed to introduce proper age verification processes to avoid being blocked, something Arcom says has not happened.
Things aren’t looking much more porn-positive in Germany, where the country’s Higher Administrative Court found no objections to a ban in the country of porn site xHamster, implemented in March 2022, reported NTV.
The German xHamster block, implemented by the country’s main internet service providers (ISPs), was also related to age verfication concerns. Tobias Schmid, head of the State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia, had launched something of an anti-porn crusade, targeting xHamster in the courts.
The move raised the prospect of other porn sites being blocked in Germany, and an age verification-related precedent being set for online porn in wider Europe. The crackdown has led to outcry from free speech advocates.
“In view of the high priority given to the protection of minors, the providers could not counter the ban with the so-called country of origin principle, according to which internet providers from an EU member state are only subject to the rules there,” NTV says.
Much of the online porn industry, in Germany and beyond, will have eyes on France for the October 4 decision over whether the Paris court can rule on the porn block. Of course, accessing the sites via a VPN (and choosing a location outside of Germany/France) should still provide access to the sites, thereby showing how futile the measures are in relation to their aims.