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France to begin testing new tool to block minors' access to porn sites

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AFP/The Local France - [email protected]
France to begin testing new tool to block minors' access to porn sites
(Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

France recently announced plans to prevent youngsters from accessing porn websites, in the latest round of a years-long struggle to protect children from explicit material. The new system will reportedly be ready for tests within the coming weeks.

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France will begin testing a new age verification system to block minors' access to pornographic websites in March, Digital Affairs Minister Jean-Noël Barrot told French lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Barrot explained that the system will operate under the principle of 'double anonymity' - meaning, it will protect the identity of the those over the age of 18 while testing age requirements. The age verification system will undergo tests by a group of companies starting at the end of March.

The Digital Affairs Minister said that the goal with the new programme is "not only to solve the issue of age verification for pornographic sites, but in the future to possibly add age verification to other services as well".

France's data protection and media regulators Cnil and Arcom are alsos set to announce their latest proposals to rein in porn websites which are in theory subject to a 2020 law requiring age verification.

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Previous attempts have been held up by privacy and technical concerns, as well as court action by the websites.

To its frustration last September, a Paris court ordered Arcom to enter into mediation with several porn websites including market leader Pornhub, holding up efforts to block them.

READ MORE: France hits Google and Facebook with huge fines over ‘cookies’

Under the new proposal, people wanting to access explicit material will need to download a phone application that provides them with a digital certificate and code, the Parisien reported.

The code will be needed to access a porn website under a system "which will work a bit like the checks from your bank when you buy something online," Barrot told the newspaper.

"2023 will mark the end of our children accessing pornographic sites," he added.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is married to former school teacher Brigitte Macron, promised to make protecting children from porn a priority during his bid for re-election last year.

In November, he launched the Children Online Protection Laboratory, an initiative that aims to bring together industry giants and researchers to look for ways to shield minors online.

In September last year, a report entitled "Hell Behind the Scenes" by French senators concluded that there was "massive, ordinary and toxic" viewing of porn by children.

The report found that two thirds of children aged 15 or less had seen pornographic content.

The French production industry has been roiled by a series of sexual assault cases in recent years in which women have come forward to allege rape, mistreatment and manipulation by directors and fellow actors.

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