Europe Has Traded Away Its Online Porn Law

When someone Inês Marinho trusted shared an intimate video of her online without her consent in 2019, she compared it to a chronic disease she would have to live with for the rest of her life.

First the video was shared through WhatsApp, then Telegram and Twitter. Eventually it found its way onto popular porn platforms, including Pornhub and XVideos.

“It didn’t show my face, but it had my name on it,” says Marinho, who is based in Lisbon, Portugal. After she wrestled with each platform to get the video taken down, Marinho founded an organization called #NaoPartilhes (#DoNotShare) that helps other people who have faced this type of abuse and runs education sessions in schools.

She also launched a campaign to raise awareness about the phenomenon across Portugal. In the first two days, she says she was inundated with more than 500 stories from people who had experienced “image-based sexual abuse”—an umbrella term that includes deepfake pornography, upskirting, and revenge porn. Researchers predict there are thousands more people across the EU—mostly women, but also men and people from LGBTQ communites—who are affected by this type of online harassment.

There is no European law enforcing the removal of videos or images that have been uploaded to pornography platforms without their subjects’ consent. But across Europe, people like Marinho were hoping the landmark Digital Services Act (DSA) would change that. A proposal buried within the text—called Article 24b—outlined new rules that would have required people uploading content to porn platforms to verify their accounts with a phone number and email address. The article would have also forced the companies behind the platforms to hire and train more moderators in image-based sexual abuse and have required them to take down content flagged by victims “without undue delay.”

But during the 16-hour negotiations that stretched from Friday night to Saturday morning last week, the proposal was ditched. Sources involved in the negotiations told WIRED the measure was traded away in last-minute political haggling. That has left women’s organizations across Europe disappointed, even as MEPs publicly celebrate the Digital Services Act’s wins.

“As ever, online abuse against women and girls gets marginalized and minimized, and I think that’s what we’ve seen here,” says Clare McGlynn, who specializes in image-based sexual abuse at the UK’s Durham University. “It’s not taken seriously.”

Article 24b was particularly aimed at drawing attention to mainstream porn platforms, which is where much of this content ends up, says Shanley Clemot McLaren, cofounder of a French group called Stop Fisha.( Fisha is French slang for “to publicly shame.”) “Passing this Article 24b within the DSA would have been necessary to not only symbolically and legally recognize the victims, but also underline the criminal offenses that [are being committed],” she says.

To reach agreement on the DSA, representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission, and European Council had to reach a political compromise. “Out of the EU Parliament demands, [the Council] just didn’t want to accept too many,” a source involved in the negotiations told WIRED. “So the Parliament has to choose which ones they prioritize to make a compromise.”

https://www.wired.com/story/digital-services-act-deepfake-porn/

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