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Protection of minors: porn portals defend themselves against web blocking

2020-09-27T18:14:38.784Z

Media supervisory authorities want to take drastic measures against well-known porn portals. But the German providers do not play along, the providers are based abroad and one of them defends himself in court.



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Photo: Marcus Brandt / DPA

Actually, the State Agency for Media in North Rhine-Westphalia wanted to get the process off the ground quickly.

In the spring, Tobias Schmid, the head of the authority, initiated the proceedings against some of the largest international porn portals and in June received the official okay from the Commission for the Protection of Young People in the Media (KJM).

Actually, the first blocks should already be enforced in summer.

But the portals are still easily accessible for German users and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

However, the web blocks are not canceled.

As the "FAZ" reported, the well-known portals YouPorn, Pornhub and Mydirtyhobby were at the top of the list of media guards, all of whom belong to the Mindgeek group.

However, you do not have a company headquarters in Germany, but are at least officially located in the EU member state of Cyprus.

The long journey to the authorities

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YouPorn, Pornhub and Co.: German media guards want to enforce youth protection with network blocksBy Torsten Kleinz

That is why the media guards had set in motion an international procedure in which the German authorities had the government agencies in Cyprus confirm that they could contact the operators of the porn portals directly.

Then the operators had to be requested through international legal channels to comply with German youth protection law.

If they did not give in, the hosting providers who put the content of the porn portals on the net should be written to.

Only then did the authorities want to approach German providers so that they block access for German customers.

Here the media guards rely on mass: they only want to oblige the largest providers to block them in order to build up economic pressure and thus force the porn companies to give in.

In the fight against surreptitious advertising on YouTube, Schmid used a similar tactic.

Counterclaim stops authorities

But the Mindgeek group did not want to stick to the official script.

The three portals affected have launched a legal counterattack.

They filed suits against the State Agency for Media at the Düsseldorf Administrative Court.

In several proceedings they want to enforce that the authority has to stop its measures against the porn portals.

The situation is complex: even after weeks of exchanging written pleadings, it is not yet possible to foresee when a decision could be reached in the urgent proceedings.

The main proceedings will take significantly longer.

In the meantime there is also a case against a fourth porn portal.

As the specialist magazine "Medienkorrespondenz" reports, it is xHamster.

The operator Hammy Media did not respond to the official requests and so far has not filed a lawsuit.

The problem: It is not known exactly where this Cypriot company puts its content online.

The media guards cannot officially notify the hosting provider to have the offers removed from the network.

Hammy Media relies on the services of the US provider Cloudflare, which distributes content via an international cloud infrastructure and thus disguises the origin.

In the past, the US company had also protected offers such as 8chan from direct access.

"We are also in contact with the provider Cloudflare. We do not provide any information on the current status of the proceedings," explains a spokesman for the State Agency for Media.

Providers reject voluntary blocking

Since they apparently could not see any willingness to cooperate with Cloudflare, the authorities tried to shorten the process.

In the last few weeks, the relevant media authorities have sent letters to the providers Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefonica, 1 & 1 and Tele Columbus in order to block the porn portal.

Instead of an official blocking order, however, the authorities opted for an "information request".

In other words: Internet providers should refuse their customers access to xHamster of their own free will.

To this end, the supervisory authorities suggested so-called DNS blocks, which would have ensured that the Internet addresses could no longer be assigned to any offer.

However, these locks are very easy to bypass.

But even this step was unsuccessful: the providers all told SPIEGEL that they support the goal of protecting minors.

However, blocking websites in response to official requests is out of the question for them.

"The request also did not meet the legal criteria of the Federal Court of Justice for blocking websites, so that we have not been able to comply with the request so far," explains a spokesman for Internet provider 1 & 1.

The company is referring, among other things, to a judgment of the Federal Court of Justice from 2015 in which the Karlsruhe judges

In principle, network barriers were declared legal, but linked to high requirements.

If the authorities actually present a legally valid blocking order, 1 & 1 wants to have this checked legally.

The European legislation on net neutrality actually prohibits providers from interfering with data traffic.

Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefonica and Tele Columbus have made similar statements.

The state media agency in North Rhine-Westphalia now wants to discuss the next steps with the KJM.

Watch out, porn!

At the request of SPIEGEL, none of the porn companies wanted to comment.

The operator's point of view is clear from the design of the offers.

They all have a so-called RTA label from the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP).

The idea behind it: Non-adult and pornographic content is marked by the operators and can thus easily be filtered out by youth protection programs.

According to German youth protection law, this is a no-go: Anyone who offers content that is only available to adults must ensure that no young people or even children can access the offer.

For this purpose, German providers must use a procedure that has been expressly certified by the KJM.

The consequence of the bureaucratic approach: There are hardly any German porn offers.

Obtaining proof of identity at a post office, for example, in order to access porn at home, is attractive for few customers.

The attempt to get German authorities to enforce these requirements internationally will keep the courts busy for a long time.

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Source: spiegel

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