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Spain to introduce age-verification for accessing porn this year

A woman uses a Samsung phone in Barcelona, Spain.
A woman uses a Samsung phone in Barcelona, Spain. Copyright Manu Fernandez/AP
Copyright Manu Fernandez/AP
By Anna Desmarais
Published on Updated
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Spanish authorities will be using digital wallets to verify a user’s age online when they try to access porn or adult sites.

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By this autumn, Spanish authorities will be using digital wallets to verify a user’s age online when they access porn or adult sites. 

The Cartera Digital Beta “wallet” will be a mobile app that stores an “adult age credential” issued by the Spanish government after analysing the user’s ID card stored in the system.

The wallet generates 30 pairs of keys per month that can be used once to verify a person’s identity, according to a technical document released this week.

The system will have double authentication “to prevent minors from accessing through adult devices,” according to Spain’s Minister of Digital Transformation and Public Service. 

The government will also identify adult content providers on "trusted whitelists" so the National Institute for Cybersecurity (INCIBE) will help browsers identify which websites need to verify age before displaying their content. 

The digital wallet will also be able to store municipal registries, university and non-university degrees along with ID documents. 

One in three Spanish youth learn about sex through porn

"The data we see on minors' access to adult content and its possible consequences are what have led us to develop this tool as quickly as possible,” José Luis Escrivá, Spain’s digital transformation and public service minister, said in a statement this week. 

A report published by Spain’s Ministry of Justice in January found that seven out of ten young people between the ages of 13 and 17 regularly watch porn, with 30 per cent saying it is their only source of sexual education. 

Spanish children normally first access porn between the ages of 9 and 11, the paper continued, mostly from their phone’s messaging apps or social networks. 

"This system of verification of the age of majority that we are presenting ... is one of the most necessary and effective measures to combat this problem."
José Luis Escrivá, Spain’s digital transformation and public service minister

What this means, according to Escrivà, is that young people consider this content “faithful to real sexuality … which causes them to act by imitation,” leading to a 116 per cent increase in sexual assaults carried out by minors in the last five years. 

"This system of verification of the age of majority that we are presenting today is one of the most necessary and effective measures to combat this problem," said Escrivá.

The "wallet" (digital document holder) needs a “little over two months” to be fully completed before it’s made available to all citizens “at the end of the summer,” Escrivá continued.

Spain working on wider minor online protection law

Spain is also working on a new draft legislation that will make it mandatory for all adult service providers to use age verification.

The law for the protection of minors in digital environments will “guarantee the rights of minors in the digital sphere,” by focusing on privacy, protection of personal data and “access to content appropriate for their age,” according to a government release on the legislation. 

If passed, public authorities will also carry out awareness campaigns on the rights and risks for minors online. The government would offer special care to children “with pathologies associated with the inappropriate use of devices,” the release continued. 

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The law criminalises the creation and dissemination of pornographic deepfake images or audio generated by artificial intelligence (AI). 

The government plans to send the bill to Spain’s Parliament in the autumn for approval. 

Online EU wallets to be phased in by 2027

This move by Spain is part of a bigger effort by the European Union to adopt digital wallets for 80 per cent of citizens by 2030. The Spanish wallet fits the same regulations as the European models.

The eventual European Union Digital Identity (EUDI) will act like a physical wallet, but online. Documents will be securely stored and accessible anywhere in the EU. 

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The European Digital Identity Regulation (eIDAS 2) standards, updated in May, regulate who needs to adopt the virtual wallet, with the eventual goal of acceptance by 2027, according to Spanish software company Veridas. 

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