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

The European Union has designated adult content website XNXX as subject to the strictest level of content regulation under the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA) after it notified the bloc it had passed the usage threshold of more than 45 million regional average monthly users.

It’s the fourth porn site to be named a very large online platform (VLOP), after Pornhub, Stripchat and XVideos gained the status in December 2023.

The EU has signalled it wants the regime to force popular platforms hosting adult content to add age verification to prevent minors accessing inappropriate content. Although, so far, other adult content VLOPs appear to have responded to the designation by asking users to self declare they are over 18 years of age — rather than implementing more robust forms of age verification.

Zooming out, there are approaching two dozen other VLOPs operating across different types of businesses, including ecommerce, social networking and internet search. All the designated platforms are required to abide by an extra set of obligations that aim to drive algorithmic accountability through transparency and also mandate risk assessments to reduce negative societal impacts.

“Such obligations include adopting specific measures to empower and protect users online, to prevent minors from accessing pornographic content online, including with age-verification tools, to provide access to publicly available data to researchers, and to publish a repository of ads,” the Commission wrote in a press release Wednesday announcing XNXX as the latest VLOP.

XNXX has four months to be compliant with the rules for VLOPs, so by mid November, which is when the EU expects it to submit its first risk assessment report.

Requirements for VLOPs sit on top of the DSA’s general rules, which have applied to XNXX since mid February. These cover governance issues such as providing users with accessible tools to report illegal content.

Any breaches of the pan-EU rulebook can attract fines of up to 6% of global annual turnover.

The European Commission is the sole enforcer of the DSA rules for VLOPs which amps up the regulatory risk for designated platforms as the EU takes on centralized enforcement vs the decentralized oversight of the general rules which loops in various authorities at the Member State level. Up to now oversight on XNXX has been undertaken by the Czech Telecommunication Office.

The EU has a number of open investigations on VLOPs for suspected non-compliance, including probes of X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, AliExpress and Facebook and Instagram. But — so far — it has not confirmed any breaches or issued any fines.

The bloc’s enforcers have also been active in expanding designations for VLOPs, with the initial 19 named in April 2023 now numbering 25 in total. “This designation illustrates how the Commission continues to closely monitor market developments,” the EU added of XNXX joining the VLOP club.

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