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xHamster blocked in Germany, stoking fears of further porn censorship

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xHamster has been blocked in Germany by the country’s main internet service providers (ISPs), after the country’s Commission for Youth Media Protection ruled that the site had breached Germany’s Youth Media Protection State Treaty.

Porn site xHamster, which is based in Cyprus and operated by Hammy Media Ltd, was targeted due to not having age verification processes required for porn sites under German law.

ISPs operating in Germany including Telefónica, Tele Columbus, 1&1 and Vodafone stated that they will block xHamster. Some ISPs already implemented the block, decreed on March 3 2022.

“Legal battles are a poor way to reach an agreement, and an ineffective way to protect German youth”

The Free Speech Coalition

With other porn sites, such as Pornhub and YouPorn, being targeted by legal challenges in Germany, the move has led to fears among free speech advocates that censorship of porn is set to become more common in Europe.

Those two porn sites plus another, MyDirtyHobby, remain at risk of being blocked in Germany after the Düsseldorf administrative court upheld a ruling in December 2021, stating that banning them for not complying with age verification rules was justified. As was the case for the xHamster banning, the ruling was upheld in relation to the sites not implementing required age verification processes in Germany.

The media authority of the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia and its director, Tobias Schmid, have been leading the legal charges to get the porn sites banned. Schmid said of porn sites adding age verification processes: “This is not only legally mandatory, but also technically very simple.”

In a letter to Schmid the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), which advocates for free speech in the adult industry, said that implementing robust age verification rules was not a simple step for porn sites.

“You demand the implementation of mandatory age-verification for all users, including facial scanning and ID uploads. These methods may sound reasonable to those with a cursory knowledge of the technology, or the adult industry more generally. However, in practice, they are difficult to use, face large-scale opposition from consumers and are financially unsustainable to implement,” the group wrote.

The FSC added: “We have long been committed to keeping minors from our sites, and, should technology evolve in a way to make it simple and economical to verify each visitor without blocking legal adults, we will happily comply. We share a common goal, but regulatory decrees and legal battles are a poor way to reach an agreement, and an ineffective way to protect German youth.”

Of course, connecting to a VPN will help keep access private, and provide a simple workaround, thereby suggesting that it’s perhaps not that robust a solution in the first place.

Read Next: Age verification crackdown continues: France joins Germany in threatening to block porn sites

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