We explain the threat of blocking six pornographic sites if they do not prohibit their access to minors


Millions of French people consult them. And not all of them are over 18. Six pornographic sites are targeted by a procedure of the Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA), seized by three associations about the blocking of their access to minors, which they consider ineffective, or even non-existent. Several of these sites claimed to have received a formal notice from the CSA. The audiovisual gendarme is authorized to take legal action if he finds any breaches, punishable by a heavy fine and a prison sentence.

The instance should announce “in a few weeks” whether or not she transmits the file to justice, she explains to franceinfo, confirming information from the Parisian. “You risk losing access to our site”, for their part, alert these platforms. Franceinfo explains this procedure and its possible consequences.

What sites are targeted and who points the finger at them?

Franceinfo revealed the launch of this procedure last November. Three associations, the Observatory of Parenthood and Digital Education (Open), the National Union of Family Associations (Unaf) and the French Council of Associations for the Rights of the Child (Cofrade), then seized the Superior council of audio-visual (CSA).

Their referral targets six sites broadcasting pornographic videos in free streaming: Jacquie et Michel, Pornhub, Tukif, Xhamster, Xnxx and Xvideos. The Open then explained that it had chosen these sites after having established a bailiff’s report on the fact that they do not comply with the legislation.

What are they blamed for?

The associations reproach them for not respecting the obligation to prohibit access to minors. On these sites, verification of the age of Internet users is sometimes non-existent or consists of a sworn declaration – in the form of a checkbox – certifying that the visitor is of legal age. “The targeted sites have no filtering system to verify the age of the Internet user”, therefore estimated the Open in November.

However, if the Penal Code already punished the dissemination of pornographic images likely to be seen by minors, a law adopted in July 2020 clarified the text: offenses are now established. “including if the access of a minor (…) results from a simple declaration of the latter indicating that he is at least 18 years old.”

It is also since the adoption of this law that it is possible to seize the CSA on this subject. If he finds a violation of the Penal Code – the three associations say they have attached a bailiff’s report to their referral – the president of the CSA can send the sites concerned a formal notice, from which the recipient has 15 days. to address its observations. This is the approach taken by the CSA with regard to these sites, which had until March 16 to respond, confirms the authority to franceinfo.

If the targeted sites do not comply with the law, the president of the CSA can then take legal action. He should communicate his decision in a few weeks, says the CSA to franceinfo.

What are they risking?

According to article 23 of the law of July 30, 2020, the president of the CSA can ask the justice to order the blocking of the sites targeted by the Internet service providers, as well as their delisting from search engines.

In addition, the offense of disseminating pornographic images likely to be seen by minors is punishable by three years in prison and a fine, for legal persons, of 375,000 euros.

How do the sites react?

Many users have discovered this procedure through the messages displayed on the home pages of these sites, in the wake of their formal notice. “Dear visitors, you may not have access to our site in less than a month”, announce Xnxx and Xvideos, explaining that “the CSA initiated the procedure against us”. “You may lose access to our site soon, due to a new law that requires you to verify your age by sharing your private data”, sums up Pornhub in his message.

These three sites have posted surveys online in order, according to Pornhub, to “share your opinion with the CSA” in their observations sent to the authority, and to attempt “to avoid this unfortunate situation”.

The deadline for submitting these observations expired on Tuesday, but the polls remained online on Friday. These three sites notably ask users about their concerns regarding the processing of their personal data and their knowledge of parental control tools. And don’t really hide their point of view on the matter: “Do you just think that 30 million French people have to identify themselves in order to compensate for the lack of supervision of negligent parents, when they already have at their disposal easy to use, but perhaps little known, control tools?” asks for example the poll of Xnxx and Xvideos.

The three other sites targeted do not refer to the CSA procedure, but display more substantiated messages reminding that they are reserved for adults and suggesting the installation of parental control tools.

What could they do to verify the age of Internet users?

The law does not impose any particular method to verify the age of Internet users. In the surveys put online by three of the targeted sites, there is a list – which the CSA claims not to be at the origin – of methods on which Internet users are invited to express their preferences.

It includes verification using a payment of zero euros by credit card; the purchase of a pass from a tobacconist who would verify the buyer’s age; different photo or ID sharing options; the use of identifiers provided by a public service such as FranceConnect (used to connect to the sites of the tax administration or health insurance) or by the internet service provider; or the reception of a code sent by a telephone operator.

According to the results (accessible, but the reliability of which is difficult to assess) of the survey common to Xvideos and Xnxx, which claim more than 10 million responses, it is the latter solution that would be accepted by the most users ( 36%). The solutions that pay or require the sharing of photos or identity documents are the most widely rejected.

“In some countries, it’s a credit card number” which makes it possible to verify the age of the Internet user, suggested Thomas Rohmer, president of the Open, on franceinfo in November. According to PublicSénat, the verification by a payment of zero euros is already the one used by the company Marc Dorcel, whose boss was heard in the Senate. NextImpact affirms that Jacquie and Michel, one of the sites targeted by the CSA, pleads for a similar solution, via the company My18Pass, even if this one also allows the verification by an identity document.

In 2019, the United Kingdom had however given up the application of a similar law because of fears about the protection of the privacy of Internet users, explained at the time. The Guardian (in English). The British daily also claimed to have succeeded in bypassing “in a few minutes” one of the verification systems envisaged, by creating a false bank card number.

A risk of circumvention on which several of the sites targeted in France are ironic in their online surveys. The promoters of the measure admit it. “We know very well that we will never prevent a teenager from being able to have access to these sites, whatever the device that we put in place, explained Thomas Rohmer to franceinfo in November. However, it is important to provide a framework and to reiterate that the French State does not allow a child that these contents are accessible to them. “


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