Germany Regulators Are Trying to Block Porn Sites to Thwart Horny Teens

Germany Regulators Are Trying to Block Porn Sites to Thwart Horny Teens

Porn won the porn war in the UK, but now the industry is fighting on a different front in Germany, where authorities are trying to force internet service providers to block major sites that don’t implement age verification systems.

Currently, German law requires porn sites to restrict access to individuals 18 or older. What’s changed is that German authorities, like the British before them, have now dubbed it a good use of their time to actually pursue porn sites they think aren’t doing enough to prevent under-18 browsing, and are trying to compel them to introduce more stringent age verification systems. That in turn comes with all the complications and privacy issues that thwarted a similar effort in the UK, such as the technical difficulty enforcing the rules, censorship, and — depending on how sites choose to comply — the possibility third-party age verification services would build databases of who’s watching what and when.

Per Motherboard, German regulators — in an effort spearheaded by the director of the State Media Authority (LMA) of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Tobias Schmid — are in the process of forcing telecoms like Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom to impose Domain Name System (DNS) blocks against sites like Pornhub and YouPorn.

The DNS system is essentially the phonebook of the internet, translating domain names into IP addresses so users can navigate the web. DNS blocking Pornhub would prevent German internet users from typing “pornhub.com” into a stock web browser and immediately arriving at the page. The logic, apparently, is that faced with the threat of a losing the majority of their web traffic from Germany, major porn sites will cave to regulators and enforce the rules.

But it’s not exactly foolproof (or teenproof). It would be trivial for German youth to evade these blocks by using an alternate DNS provider or simply downloading a browser plugin. They could also use a virtual private network, which creates an encrypted bridge from a user’s device to a server somewhere else, to visit a porn site from another country. Or, they could simply drop the IP address into their browser and arrive at any site without needing to go through DNS. (Pornhub’s happens to be 66.254.114.41. You’re welcome, Germans of the future.)

According to Motherboard, German regulators are also only targeting a handful of the largest sites on the web, meaning anyone could simply navigate to a lesser-known porn site and watch uninhibited. Schmid is reportedly concerned with children learning of “abnormal sexual practices” like gangbangs, so it’s a good thing that type of content can’t be found on tens of thousands of websites or anything.

In the UK example, glaring flaws in the system included the total lack of a framework for verifying ages of users — with proposals including verifying ages with text messages, requiring credit card confirmation, monitoring social media feeds, and even delegating to post office employees the task of issuing unique ID codes that allow registration at websites. In a white paper, UK regulators later conceded the plan could lead to a “fragmented regulatory environment.” The British Board of Film Classification, which was charged with enforcing the plan, more or less admitted it was totally powerless to prevent horny teens from acting on their digital urges.

“Protecting minors from adult content found online is a positive idea. And one that everybody should stand behind,” Alex Hawkins, the vice president of xHamster, told Motherboard. “But what is happening here instead is an attempt to censor a few of the big adult industry market players, leaving hundreds of smaller adult websites unsupervised. We have been selectively asked to restrict access by implementing AV [Age Verification]. What would a user do in this case? A user would simply choose another free (not subject to AV) website.”

“Will such an approach protect minors?” Hawkins added. “Hardly. The majority of users would opt for another adult website without AV.”