Germany on the verge of blocking one of the biggest porn sites


German child welfare regulators are set to block one of the world’s biggest porn sites. Officials are expected to issue a blocking order to the country’s largest internet service providers, saying that a pornographic website, which is said to be xHamster, should be made inaccessible to Germany’s 83 million people.

The blocking order, which could be issued in the coming weeks by the Commission for the protection of minors in the media (Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media in German, or KJM), follows a failure by xHamster to introduce age verification controls to prevent people under 18 from accessing pornography. The order is the latest salute in a two-year campaign by regulators to force all accessible porn websites in Germany to implement age verification checks.

Lawmakers around the world, including Canada, France, the UK and some US states, are seeking to introduce more measures to prevent children from accessing adult material online. But Germany’s move is one of the most sweeping steps taken so far, with critics likening it to censorship.

German authorities are taking action against four major porn sites, said Marc Jan Eumann, chairman of the KJM. The group, which represents the country’s 14 state media authorities, is tasked with enforcing a broad treaty agreed to by all states on the protection of children. It is in addition to other German child protection laws. Eumann refuses to confirm the four websites that KJM is suing against. However, the German report said the cases are against xHamster and three websites, YouPorn, Pornhub and MyDirtyHobby, all of which are owned by MindGeek.

Regulators have been trying to force pornographic websites to introduce age verification checks – which may involve uploading identity documents – since September 2019. Much of this was pushed by a state regulator, Tobias Schmid from the North Rhine National Media Authority. Westphalia, which was criticized for his opinions on sex, but the issue is now also dealt with by the KJM.

Eumann says companies should have age verification systems in place to make sure their visitors are not children. The law states that pornographic content should only be accessible to adults, Eumann says. In all four cases, pornography websites, which have German language versions, are accused of failing to introduce age verification systems.

A porn site, supposedly xHamster, was first contacted by regulators in March 2020 and then by the others by June 2020. Requests for age verification have now turned into a legal battle and three cases are awaiting hearing in one of Düsseldorf’s administrative courts, Eumann said.

In the case of xHamster, it is believed that there has been no response from the owners of the website. As a result, the case would be the most advanced and could lead to the order to block the site in Germany in the coming weeks. At the end of June 2021, the KJM identified the company that hosts xHamster and Requirement to make the website unavailable. “We have a block order for the hosting provider, which is based in the Netherlands,” Eumann said. “If the hosting provider doesn’t comply, we’ll take the last step.” That order expired earlier this week, KJM confirmed. “The final step is to take action, a blocking order, against the German ISP,” adds Eumann.

In effect, this means issuing a blocking order to the largest German web providers, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, O2 and 1 & 1, demanding that they block the website for people trying to access it in Germany. The larger providers will be targeted first, followed by the smaller ones and it is likely that a blockade would occur at the Domain Name System (DNS) level. When you browse the web, the URL you type in your browser’s address bar is converted to an IP address by DNS. Imposing a DNS block would mean that anyone typing the porn site address into their browser would not be able to view the page.



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