COLOGNE, Germany — A state-sponsored effort in Germany that hardens intrusive age verification (AV) schemes to target specific leading adult platforms — including Pornhub, YouPorn and MyDirtyHobby — has raised alarm among privacy and freedom of sexual expression advocates.
As XBIZ has been reporting, the crusade to enforce state regulations on adult content has been spearheaded by an obscure local bureaucrat named Tobias Schmid since November 2019.
According to an extensive report by Vice journalist Gabriel Geiger published today, Schmid has been redoubling his efforts “to enforce existing mandatory age laws on porn sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and xHamster.”
“In practice,” Geiger writes, “this would mean that all visitors to the sites would have to upload pictures of official IDs which would then be verified automatically.”
Schmid is the head of the State Media Authority (LMA) of North Rhine-Westphalia, an agency that is part of the federal state government of that German region and is of equal rank as the ministries or a superior state authority.
In April, Schmid loudly demanded “web locks” be placed on Pornhub. Schmid was particularly bothered by "gang bang" content, and how it was normalized on Pornhub among other sexual practices.
“If children get the impression that gang bang is a normal sexual practice in which the woman is used and humiliated, it is certainly an extreme problem,” declared Schmid, who obsessed in his statements about policing “normal” vs. “not normal” sexuality.
A 'Relentless' Morality Crusader
The Vice piece characterizes Schmid as “relentless” and points out that some members of the German press are critical of his zeal. “Regulatory policy is his fetish,” wrote one daily newspaper.
Vice reports that “after an almost year-long legal scramble, [with] porn sites refusing to back down, it looks like Schmid could get his way. After telecommunication providers like Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom [refused] to voluntarily implement DNS blocks against a number of sites, including Pornhub, YouPorn, and MyDirtyHobby, German authorities are now in the process of legally enforcing the bans.”
Alex Hawkins, VP of xHamster, told Vice that the German situation is different from the issues that surround the troubled U.K. age-verification proposals.
“According to the law planned in the U.K., any site that failed to implement age verification checks would have been blacklisted,” Vice reports, “in contrast to Germany, where authorities are targeting a small number of big market players. This is a problem for large porn sites because age verification checks can push users who want to consume porn anonymously to other smaller competitors.”
Hawkins told Vice that although “protecting minors from adult content found online is a positive idea and one that everybody should stand behind, 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. What would a user do in this case?” Hawkins continued. “A user would simply choose another free (not subject to AV) website. Will such an approach protect minors? Hardly. The majority of users would opt for another adult website without AV.”
Vice pointed out that users could easily bypass state-sponsored verification schemes by using Google Cloudflare or a VPN.
Moreover, privacy advocates are troubled that German authorities are insist in tying AV schemes to federal ID documents.
“Handling personal information with extremely sensitive and oftentimes intimate data around sexuality and porn consumption is a disaster waiting to happen,” Geiger writes, pushing “an already taboo topic even more out of bounds.”
To read “German Authorities Want to Implement DNS Blocks Against Major Porn Sites,” visit Vice’s Motherboard.
Main image: German censor Tobias Schmid and the search term that obsesses him. Photo: Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia.