Europe has abandoned the law on online porn

- Advertisement -


When someone ines Marinho shared an intimate video of herself online without her consent in 2019, comparing it to a chronic illness she will have to live with for the rest of her life.

- Advertisement -

The video was first published via WhatsApp, then Telegram and Twitter. It eventually made its way onto popular porn platforms including Pornhub and XVideos.

- Advertisement -

“It didn’t have my face on it, but it did have my name on it,” says Marinho, who lives in Lisbon, Portugal. After fighting every platform to get the video removed, Marinho founded an organization called #NaoPartilhes (#DoNotShare), which helps others who have experienced this type of violence and provides educational sessions in schools.

She also launched a campaign to raise awareness of the phenomenon in Portugal. In her first two days, she said, she was inundated with more than 500 stories from people who had experienced “image-based sexual assault,” a generic term that includes deepfake pornography, upskirt, and revenge porn. Researchers predict that in the EU, thousands of people – mostly women, but also men and members of the LGBT community – suffer from this kind of online harassment.

- Advertisement -

There is no law in Europe requiring the removal of videos or images that have been uploaded to pornographic platforms without the consent of their subjects. But across Europe, people like Marinho hoped that the historic Digital Services Act (DSA) would make a difference. A sentence hidden in the text called Article 24b— outlined new rules that require people who upload content to porn platforms to verify their accounts with a phone number and email address. The article would also force the companies behind the platforms to hire and train more image-based sexual assault moderators and require them to remove content flagged by victims “without undue delay.”

But during 16-hour negotiations that lasted from Friday evening to Saturday morning last week, the offer was rejected. Sources involved in the negotiations told WIRED that the measure was sold at the last minute as a result of political bargaining. This has disappointed women’s organizations across Europe, even as MEPs publicly celebrate the victory of the Digital Services Act.

“As always, online violence against women and girls is becoming marginalized and reduced to a minimum, and I think that is what we are seeing here,” says Claire McGlynn, who specializes in image-based sexual violence at Durham University in the UK. “It’s not taken seriously.”

Article 24b was specifically aimed at drawing attention to the mainstream porn platforms where much of this content ends up, says Shanley Clemont McLaren, co-founder of the French group Stop Fisha (Fisha is French slang for “publicly embarrassing”). “The adoption of this Article 24b within the DSA would be necessary not only for the symbolic and legal recognition of victims, but also for the isolation of criminal offenses that [are being committed],” she said.

To reach an agreement on the DSA, representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council had to come to a political compromise. “Outside the requirements of the EU Parliament, [the Council] I just didn’t want to take too much,” a source involved in the talks told WIRED. “Therefore, the parliament must choose which ones they consider to be priorities in order to come to a compromise.”

In the end, Parliament decided to prioritize other issues such as SME exemptions, website accessibility and consumer protection, the source said. This version of the negotiations was supported by another participant in the proceedings, who also wished to remain anonymous. Christel Shaldemos, who led the parliament’s negotiating team, did not respond to a request for comment.

The suggestion that people who upload content to porn platforms have to verify their accounts using phone numbers and email addresses has been controversial due to privacy concerns. “We have requested confirmation commitment with phone number and email address from content uploaders because we see that in these [image-based abuse] cases, law enforcement rarely happens because you can never identify people [who have uploaded the content]says Josephine Ballon, head of the legal department at HateAid, the German hate speech NGO that lobbied for 24b. “There are porn platforms where you don’t even need to have a profile to upload something.”

Still, privacy concerns were justified, especially for people uploading content to these platforms by mutual agreement, says Asha Allen, director of advocacy for Europe at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “In fact, it would also set a precedent for all user-generated content platforms,” she says, reflecting concerns that once identity verification is approved at the EU level for porn platforms, it could be approved for social media sites such as Facebook, TikTok or Twitter.

Privacy concerns from sex workers and content creators could be mitigated if business rather than personal email was used to verify users, McGlynn said. This extra step would create enough friction in the upload process to make people think twice before uploading, she said.

But it wasn’t just the 24b test requirements that were shelved. “Even those parts that would not pose a problem in terms of fundamental rights and privacy were not accepted,” says MEP Patrick Breuer, a member of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in parliament who opposed the ID requirements.

Some experts are still hopeful that the EU will introduce new laws to protect women facing this type of abuse through rules set by the Commission. suggestd in March, which would criminalize inconsistent sharing of intimate images. “Directive on [gender-based violence] is a much more comprehensive tool for dealing with image-based sexual abuse because it is specific and criminalizes such violence,” says Allen.

Under the EU Gender Violence Directive, the Commission has proposed that the sharing of images without consent criminalizedwith imprisonment up to one year. It is not clear how law enforcement will find people uploading this material to sites that do not require their contact information. The directive is currently being discussed by the Council and Parliament.

Despite this, the DSA remains a missed opportunity to address this issue, says MEP Alexandra Gies of the Greens/European Free Alliance. “[24b] would protect girls and women from the huge risk of finding their nude images on porn platforms, mostly without even knowing it,” she says. “That would make a huge difference.”


More Great WIRED Stories

.


Credit: www.wired.com /

- Advertisement -

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox

DMCA / Correction Notice

Recent Articles

Related Stories

Stay on top - Get the daily news in your inbox