Europe classifies three adult sites as worthy of its toughest internet regulations

Very Large Online Platform status means NSFW sites must clean up their acts

The European Commission has designated three websites that host sexually explicit material as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) under the Digital Services Act – status that means the trio will be more highly regulated than other online services.

In a Wednesday announcement, the Commission (EC) named Pornhub, Stripchat, and XVideos as VLOPs because, like other entities in this category, they fulfil the threshold of 45 million average monthly users in the EU.

The EC previously designated 19 VLOPs – among them Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. The Digital Services Act (DSA) requires freshly designated VLOPs to comply with many security, privacy and consumer safety requirements within four months of being added to the category.

Those requirements include mitigation measures to address risks linked to the dissemination of child sexual abuse material and protections for minors including measures that prevent them from accessing pornographic material online – including age verification tools.

VLOPs must also publish transparency reports on content moderation decisions and risk management practices every six months, and file reports on their systemic risks and audit results once a year.

European commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton's canned quote commenting on the fresh VLOP designations states "I have been very clear that creating a safer online environment for our children is an enforcement priority under the DSA."

The nature of the material the three sites host means designating them as VLOPs in just the second batch of such notifications is an eloquent statement of the DSA at work.

The designation appears sound on both audience size and the DSA's aim of "tackling illegal content and societal risks online."

As The New York Times reported in 2020, Pornhub is known to have put women at risk as it seemingly chose to ignore the presence of millions of nonconsensual and/or child sexual abuse videos on its platform. The Times report included harrowing details of the impact those videos created. The site removed many videos after the report was published.

Pressure to do more to keep the site safe is surely welcome. And being designated as a VLOP is very significant pressure.

Appeals against VLOP classifications are possible: German fashion house Zalando and Amazon have both already done so.

The Register searched the websites of the three sites' owners (and not, for NSFW reasons, the sites themselves) for any sign of comment. Only Pornhub's parent, Aylo, publishes a press release feed, and at the time of writing no posts addressed the EC decision. ®

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