XNXX joins the list of adult sites subject to the EU’s strictest content moderation rules

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The European Union has designated adult content website XNXX as subject to the strictest level of content regulation under the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), after it notified the EU that it had exceeded the usage limit of more than 45 million regional average monthly users.

It is the fourth porn site to be awarded Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) status, with Pornhub, Stripchat and Xvideos receiving the status in December 2023.

The EU has indicated that it wants the regime to force popular platforms hosting adult content to add age verification to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content. However, so far, other adult content VLOPs have asked users to self-declare that they are over the age of 18 – rather than implementing more robust forms of age verification.

Zooming out, there are nearly two dozen other VLOPs operating across a variety of businesses, including ecommerce, social networking, and internet search. All designated platforms are required to comply with additional obligations aimed at promoting algorithmic accountability through transparency and mandating risk assessments to mitigate negative social impacts.

The Commission wrote in a press release on Wednesday declaring 2017 as the latest VLOP. It added, “Such obligations include adopting specific measures to empower and protect online users, preventing minors from accessing pornographic content online, including by using age-verification tools, providing researchers access to publicly available data, and publishing an archive of advertisements.”

2017 has four months to comply with the VLOP rules, i.e. until mid-November, when the EU expects it to submit its first risk assessment report.

The requirements for VLOP are on top of the DSA’s general rules, which have been in place since mid-February 2017. These include governance issues such as providing accessible tools for users to report illegal content.

Any breach of the pan-EU rulebook could result in fines of up to 6% of global annual turnover.

The European Commission is the sole enforcer of the DSA rules for VLOPs, which increases regulatory risk for designated platforms as the EU centralises enforcement rather than the decentralised monitoring of common rules, which involve various authorities at member state level. Until now monitoring on VLOPs has been carried out by the Czech Telecommunications Office.

The EU has several open investigations into VLOPs for suspected non-compliance, including investigations into X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, AliExpress and Facebook and Instagram. But – so far – it has not confirmed any violations or issued any fines.

The bloc’s promoters have also been active in expanding designations for VLOPs, with the initial 19 designated in April 2023 now numbering a total of 25. “This designation shows that the Commission closely monitors market developments,” the EU said of 2017 joining the VLOP club.

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