France's Parliament Approves Age-Verification for Pornography Websites

Illustration for article titled Frances Parliament Approves Age-Verification for Pornography Websites
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The French Parliament this week approved legislation for requiring age-verification protocols for pornography websites, a system approved and later abandoned by the U.K. following technical setbacks and privacy concerns.

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The age verification in France was approved unanimously this week after being introduced as an amendment last month to a law on domestic violence, Politico reported Thursday. The outlet reported that the verification methods will be up to private companies themselves, but added that action against non-compliant platforms could involve barring access to their sites in France. According to Politico, the bill still requires a final vote in the Senate but is expected to pass.

The bill is meant to prohibit access to pornographic imagery by children and teens under 18, though systems for doing so are controversial and imperfect. Politico reported that a method of age verification being explored by lawmakers is credit card verification.

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But the outlet noted the same controversial system of verifying an individual’s identity for entry to adult websites was similarly intended to be enforced in the U.K. last year before the age verification system was repeatedly delayed and ultimately scrapped.

As with the bill in France, the verification systems in the U.K. would have been enforced by private companies themselves, with access to their pornographic sites being barred in the event that they failed to enforce those ID protocols. According to Wired last year, identification methods could have involved SMS, credit cards, or passport or ID documents, face recognition, and even the blockchain. Plans were killed for the U.K. system over technical problems and privacy concerns.

Critics like Jim Killock, Open Rights Group executive director, argued last year that a lack of privacy standards for age verification systems was “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“Having some age verification that is good and other systems that are bad is unfair and a scammer’s paradise—of the government’s own making,” Killock said at the time. “Data leaks could be disastrous. And they will be the government’s own fault.

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