As the Trudeau government opposes a Senate bill aimed at preventing minors from accessing pornographic sites, a new poll shows that 77% of Canadians would support such legislation.
The probe was ordered by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, who passed at second reading a Senate bill (S-210) that would impose fines of up to $250,000 on pornographic sites that do not control not the age of the users.
All opposition parties and around fifteen Liberal MPs voted in December in favor of this bill, which will go to third reading in the spring.
The members of Justin Trudeau’s Council of Ministers, however, all voted against. “We share the goal of ensuring a safe internet experience for young people. On the other hand, this bill is fundamentally flawed,” justified the office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, after the vote.
The Trudeau government is particularly concerned that age verification mechanisms on porn sites violate privacy and pose security risks. “No state in the world that has addressed this issue has managed to successfully implement an age verification mechanism,” believes the Minister of Heritage.
“I was surprised by this categorical rejection which does not correspond to what I heard when I wanted to introduce such measures about a year ago,” reacts Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne. Currently there are zero age verifications. The bill does not specify by what mechanism age verification must be carried out. This will be determined by the government through regulations, through choices which must be discussed with the industry, with experts,” she explains.
Private user data
The survey, carried out by Maison Léger among 1,614 Canadians (margin of error of plus or minus 2.4%, 19 times out of 20), highlights that 73% of Canadian adults consider that access to pornography by minors is a significant problem.
The Canadian company that owns the Pornhub site, Ethical Capital Partners, says it agrees with the idea of a law that would require age verification, but does not support Senator Miville-Dechêne’s bill . “We are instead proposing that verification be done at the device level. The telephone would be the key, and the sites would be doors that the key opens,” summarizes Sarah Bain, spokesperson for the company. This way of doing things would protect users’ private data, according to her.
Elsewhere in the world
When the state of Louisiana passed a law a year ago requiring porn site users to obtain a digital “wallet” from the government to prove their age in order to access porn sites, Pornhub lost 80% of its visitors in this State, illustrates Mme Bath. “We cannot write laws that go against human instinct. People don’t want their gambling, smoking or pornography habits recorded,” she says.
In Spain, the socialist government of Pedro Sánchez has just given its data protection agency the mandate to develop a smartphone application that will verify the age of users and authorize access to porn sites while respecting the privacy of users. France and Great Britain are also studying similar measures. Around ten American states have also adopted measures to prevent minors from accessing pornographic content.
In Quebec, 68.4% of adolescents aged 14 to 18 have already voluntarily watched pornography, according to a survey carried out in 2022 in nine secondary schools.