Restrictions on pornography are progressing in France

21-10-2023

Western Europe

CNE.news

Youngsters search for answers to their questions on the topic of sexuality on pornographic websites, experts warn. Photo EPA, Sascha Steinbach

The French Court of Cassation allows the blocking of nine pornographic sites. The verdict comes right after the National Assembly voted in favour of a bill that restricts pornography for minors.

Two child protection associations demanded the blocking of pornographic websites that do not require age verification of their users, La Croix reports. On Wednesday, the Court of Cassation ruled in their favour. Earlier, the court of appeal had rejected their request.

According to the Court of Cassation, Internet service providers may be held accountable for the content they host, even if they do not own the website. Therefore, a provider may also choose to block a website without consulting the publisher behind the website.

Justine Atlan rejoices in the decision. "It's great", the general director of e-Enfance, one of the child protection organisations behind the legal case, tells La Croix. "The court of appeal, which will have to retry the case, will be able to rule on the merits and should condemn the pornographic sites which do not respect the law", he adds. Since 2020, pornographic websites have been obliged to verify the ages of their users.

Cyberbullying

Just a day earlier, on Tuesday, the National Assembly passed the so-called Digital Space Regulation bill (SREN) during its first reading, La Croix writes. The proposal is meant to combat cyberbullying and internet scams and restrict children's access to pornography. In total, 360 votes were in favour, while 77 opposed the bill. In July, the Senate already voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.

In December, senators and deputies will try to find a version of the bill they can all agree to, La Croix states. Some deputies are still critical of the bill because they fear that it will interfere with personal freedoms on the Internet.

Children

The bill is based on the "protection of citizens, children and businesses", Jean Noël Barrot stated at the opening of the debates on the proposal. Barrot is the Minister Delegate in charge of digital technology.

An important part of the bill is the possibility for authorities to block pornographic websites that do not prevent minors from accessing their content.

Information

The latter is very important because many minors seem to gather their information on sexuality on porn websites, the Fondation des Apprentis d'Auteuil warned last week. The support organisation for young people published figures that show that sexual, emotional and relational education for teenagers is severely lacking, La Croix reports.

Youngsters between 16 and 20 only attend 3.2 sessions of the sexual education classes on average instead of the mandatory 36. As a result, they search for answers to their questions on the topic of sexuality on pornographic websites, André Altmeyer, deputy general director of the organisation, warns. "Young people are cruelly lacking in reliable information and adults capable of entering into a dialogue with them on these subjects in a responsible manner", Altmeyer says. "Therefore, they will look for answers on the Internet, social networks and pornographic sites." This is the cause of the large number of young people (37 per cent) who have experienced sexist or sexual violence from other young people, as shown by the survey, he believes. "The earlier young people have access to pornography, the more they consume it and the more they adhere to violent representations of sexuality."

The survey confirms the severity of the problem, La Croix writes. Nearly one in three young people say to have seen porn before the age of 12. In total, 42 per cent of the boys and 29 per cent of the girls say to consume porn to learn about sexuality. As a result, 27 per cent of young people believe that the sexual drives of boys are uncontrollable, and 25 per cent are convinced that girls can enjoy being forced into sexual relationships.

In addition, young people feel obliged to fulfil the sexual desires of their partner, the survey shows. About 44 per cent have accepted a sexual relationship to please the other, for example. Éliane Nguyen, Violence prevention and relationship education coordinator at the Fondation Apprentis d'Auteuil, points out that young people do not have a good idea of sexual consent. "They do not always feel authorised to say what they want." Nguyen believes that this is a topic that should get more emphasis during the sessions of official sexual education.

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