Spain's Technology Minister Unveils Soon-to-be-Mandatory Age Verification App

Spain's Technology Minister Unveils Soon-to-be-Mandatory Age Verification App

MADRID — Spain’s anti-sex-work and anti-porn Socialist Party (PSOE) government, led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, has unveiled a new age verification app that will become mandatory for accessing adult content in the country starting in September.

The Cartera Digital app and its age verification protocols — which are not currently functional — were announced earlier this week by Spain’s Minister of Digital Transformation and Civil Service José Luis Escrivá Belmonte.

According to Escrivá, Cartera Digital is “currently in development” and is at the beta testing stage, Spain’s ABC newspaper reported.

Once it is up and running, Cartera Digital will issue “anonymous digital access credentials” allowing any adult with a Spanish national ID to enter “digital spaces with content deemed inappropriate for younger users” so long as they are willing to share their information with the government, ABC reported.

Since the app uses Spain’s national ID documents to verify age, it is unclear whether or how foreign nationals living in, working in or visiting Spain would be able to access content deemed by the government as pornographic.

Escrivá described the existence of adult content as “a problem,” and noted, “If we all don’t collaborate, this problem is impossible to solve.”

Escrivá specified that by “we” he meant adult platforms and sites, which he hopes will comply with the still-in-progress Cartera Digital.

Escrivá spent part of his presentation justifying the mandatory app, alleging that it is needed because “the great majority of young people between 18 and 26 years old consider that these contents are accurate to real sexuality.”

Escrivá also blamed adult content for a supposed increase in sexual assaults by minors which has been reported by the local press in a variety of “sex panic” features.

Adult Industry Reactions

Veteran Spanish producer and performer Pablo Ferrari, who also developed the local Loverfans and Darkfans premium fan platforms, told XBIZ that the Sánchez government “makes up rules without knowing what they’re ruling about, ignoring experts and industry stakeholders.”

“It would be reasonable for them to research how the adult industry works, and what would be the known pluses or minuses of a measure, before venturing into something that they don’t understand and cannot even fathom, from which negative consequences may result,” Ferrari said, adding that he and other producers only want paid customers and would be at the forefront of any serious, reasonable attempt to restrict their content to adults.

“The people mostly affected by the government’s misguided idea will be adults who want to watch adult entertainment,” he said. “Minors will quickly figure out a way to get around it, through VPNs and other methods. My customers who are in their 40s and 50s are not as tech-savvy as the younger users, so the end result of mandating this intrusive app will be the opposite of what the government claims to want.”

Escrivá told the press that while the Spanish government is hoping international adult sites and major social media and search companies such as Meta, Google and X will get on board, initially the law will only be applied to Spain-based adult businesses.

A PSOE-Led War on Porn

The powerful and influential SWERF faction within the PSOE, backed by Sánchez himself, has repeatedly tried to recriminalize all sex work and adult content, restoring the stigmatizing laws of the Franco dictatorship.

As XBIZ reported, this faction suffered a sound defeat in May as a controversial criminalization bill promoted by Sánchez’s government failed to gain parliamentary support among the party’s ruling coalition allies.

The supposedly “feminist” law had been loudly opposed by sex workers, sex worker rights groups and the local adult industry. The traditionally left-leaning PSOE was counting on ultra-Catholic elements within the main opposition party, the right-leaning People’s Party (PP), to provide some support, but a critical mass of PP’s parliamentarians withdrew their backing from the widely reviled “Abolition of Prostitution” law.

Among parliamentarians’ criticisms were misgivings about the proposed law not offering an exit path for sex workers, and an emphasis on punishing facilitators and clients, described by the government as “pimps and johns,” following the Nordic Model propaganda playbook.

Barcelona-based director and producer Erika Lust warned in 2022 that the PSOE’s call for “the abolition of all forms of making a profit from the prostitution of others” directly threatened porn production.

“It would not matter whether the practice is carried out under exploitation — banned under current law — or if it is independent labor, with consent from all parties involved, following ethical production standards,” Lust said.

European director, performer and sex work activist Paulita Pappel, who is originally from Spain, told XBIZ that the country is currently seeing a rise in conservative influence.

“This is leading to the suppression of voices and erosion of fundamental human rights,” Pappel noted. “The pretext of protecting children online is being used to target sex workers, restricting their tools and subjecting them to discrimination. Laws requiring age verification and banning online advertising for sexual services are pushing sex workers into precarious situations. We need to oppose these measures and advocate for decriminalization. We must fight back.”

Main Image: Spain's Minister of Digital Transformation and Civil Service José Luis Escrivá Belmonte

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