Pornography: why blocking websites will wait

The mention the reference ” Prohibited under 18 “ is decidedly difficult to translate into the digital age. Thursday, May 19, the Paris Court of Appeal, seized by two associations, The voice of the child and e-Enfance, has indeed given up blocking nine pornographic sites.

For the complainants, these sites do not comply with Art 227-24 of the Penal Code which punishes with €75,000 and three years in prison the fact of exposing minors to pornography, because they do not sufficiently block access to children, contenting themselves with a disclaimer, a simple warning message. Not enough to distract curiosity, therefore. However, the two associations were dismissed, not on the merits, but for non-compliance with the adversarial principle.

→ STORY. Pornography: how the blocking of X sites for minors ended up being imposed

A “world first”

Will it be different on May 24? That day, the Paris court must, in turn, rule in another case, which concerns five sites, on the basis of a recent law which allows Arcom (former CSA) to prosecute the disputed sites. If this time, the judge were to follow the child protection associations and the Unaf, which are in charge, it would be “a world first that would place France at the forefront of the fight against the exposure of children to pornography”, according to the specialized lawyer Me Laurent Bayon. This would also be in line with the political will of the President of the Republic, who has made several commitments on the subject and whose majority voted, in July 2021, to ban simple disclaimers.

Moreover, this would constitute the end of a form of exception around pornography. The blocking of websites by the courts is nothing exceptional. “A hundred were thus blocked by the courts last year, particularly in terms of illicit broadcasts of sporting events, according to the lawyer. In the same way, “Sites that glorify anti-Semitism are banned at the request of associations such as the Licra, for example, within a few days”.

→ MAINTENANCE. “The right scale for regulating pornography is undoubtedly Europe”

However, unlike incitement to racial hatred or misappropriation of commercial rights, pornography is legal in France. It is considered harmful for children only, “While, technically, blocking would be imposed on everyone. It would therefore amount to giving precedence to the rights of the child to be protected over the right of adults to watch what they want. It would be a huge victory for children’s rights,” continues the lawyer. This sprain would be a very strong symbol even if it were only short-lived, continues Justine Atlan, president of e-Enfance: “As soon as the sites show goodwill by implementing an effective filtering solution, the courts will lift the blockage. There is actually nothing insurmountable for them. »

Vigilance will remain

However, some doubt the effectiveness of the measure, which they consider doomed to failure. “Each time that States have committed to a technical restriction solution, it has been circumvented, says Nicolas Arpagian, cybersecurity specialist and author of the book Without going that far, and while welcoming the will of the legislator and the courts to stem the exposure of minors to pornography, the centrist Annick Billon, president of the delegation for women’s rights in the Senate, concedes that vigilance will remain bet. “It will be necessary to ensure that the content does not immediately migrate to other sites”, according to her.

A previous bitter failure is remembered, with the Hadopi law on online works. “It started from the very laudable intention of remunerating the royalties”, recalls Nicolas Arpagian. This “legal fortress”, designed to fight against illegal downloads, has nevertheless proven to be “a Maginot line”, since uses have adapted and changed with the appearance of streaming. The tool still exists but no longer has any use.

Another concern: that of the proponents of a free Internet. Blocking a site always constitutes “an act of censorship”confirms Bastien Le Querrec, lawyer and volunteer member of La Quadrature du Net. “It’s a myth that states don’t regulate the web. Site censorship is as old as the Internet. Already, in 2000, the Lopsi law made it possible to block, on the decision of the police, those who convey hateful or child pornography content, in the name of the protection of children. From there, the prohibitions have continued to extend to terrorism, serious crime, etc. Even though they do not work, since, technically, one can always circumvent national regulations, in a few clicks. » Decision on May 24.

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Pornography: why blocking websites will wait

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