Why French people may need to buy a ‘porn pass’ at the tabac to access online pornography

The tabac is central to life in France. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP
Following a ruling from the French broadcasting authority that online porn sites must do more to verify the age of their customers, users in France face a range of extra checks, including the possibility of having to go to the tabac to buy a 'porn pass'.

The French broadcasting authority CSA has ruled that current age verification checks – which generally amount to little more than checking a box – are inadequate and has put eight porn sites on notice that they must do more or face being blocked in France.

The eight sites, which include international giant Pornhub and the French sites xvideos and Jacquie et Michel, now have two weeks to explain to the regulator the actions they intend to take, and users in France have reported warning notices about imminent closure on some sites’ homepages.

An anti-domestic violence law passed this summer includes a clause about “allowing minors to access sexual content” which allows the CSA to issue legal notices to any site which it considers has insufficient age verification processes.

The offender is liable to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75,000, which is multiplied by five for businesses – so sites face a maximum of €375,000 fines. The CSA can also apply for a court order to make a certain site inaccessible to users in France by blocking access from French IP addresses.

It is up to each site to come up with its own age verification process that will satisfy the regulator.

Pornhub has published a list of proposals, which include taking a selfie with age ID, showing a piece of ID to a webcam, making a micro-payment via a bank card or mobile phone or the in-person (and age verified) purchase of a ‘porn pass’ at the tabac which would give a code allowing access to the website.

In France the tabac, as well as selling tobacco, also provides a range of administrative services from paying bills to buying un timbre fiscale which allows you to make payments to the government for taxes or pay fines such as parking fines. 

READ ALSO Why the tabac is essential for life in France – even if you don’t smoke

You can also buy stamps or place a bet.

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