France moves forward with age verification plans

The French Parliament has unanimously passed an Age Verification (AV) law with the aim of preventing minors from accessing pornographic material. The AV provision was added to a larger bill about domestic violence, and–unlike the UK’s AV law–the mechanism to verify age will be up to each site to implement individually. French President Emmanuel Macron has long promised to protect children from accessing porn, and it seems that the Parliament and Senate have finally granted his wish.

The same challenges that faced the UK’s failed age verification efforts will also be facing the French effort. Privacy watchdog groups are already concerned about both the methods sites may choose to use, as well as the storage and security of age verification information when it is in the hands of private companies.

There is also the challenge of identifying non-compliant sites. It is unclear how the French government plans to find sites to audit for AV compliance, which is a major hurdle. Tube sites like Pornhub and xHamster are the low-hanging fruit, obviously, but every pornstar and many camgirls have personal websites, there are thousands of fetish and porn message boards, and Reddit hosts hundreds of subs dedicated to various sex acts, so there is a lot of content to review.

France has already announced that sites that host adult content without appropriate AV in place will be blocked for French internet browsers. The blocking would be done via court order through France’s internet service providers. Of course, anyone with a VPN would be easily able to circumvent this obstacle if they wanted to.

It remains to be seen whether or not France will be able to implement their age verification law as planned. The UK also passed their AV plans into law, but were still unable to bring their requirements to fruition, so only time will tell if France will succeed in any meaningful way.

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