Pornhub disables access in Texas due to age verification law

Texas residents can no longer access Pornhub — without a VPN. As of Thursday, when people in Texas try to access any of the porn sites owned by Aylo, formerly MindGeek, they’ll instead see a long message in opposition to age verification laws.

Laws requiring age verification on adult entertainment sites have already gone into effect in states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Utah, Montana and North Carolina. But Texas’ age-verification law was stalled when a group of porn industry advocates and companies challenged the legislation, leading a U.S. District judge to rule that enforcement could harm free speech protections. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Texas can indeed enforce this law.

Though these laws are intended to prohibit minors from accessing adult content, advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and think tank R Street have long opposed website age checks because they can threaten data security and anonymity. Rather than instituting age checks, which Pornhub has called “haphazard and dangerous,” the site has simply cut off access in states with such laws.

“Since age verification software requires users to hand over extremely sensitive information, it opens the door for the risk of data breaches,” Pornhub wrote on its blog. “Whether or not your intentions are good, governments have historically struggled to secure this data.”

Pornhub didn’t always take this approach. Louisiana was the first state to institute one of these laws at the start of 2023. At first, Pornhub complied with age verification via the state-run LA Wallet app, which connects to a Louisiana resident’s ID. In other words, you were legally required to verify your government ID in order to watch porn.

Once these laws extended to other states, Pornhub and Aylo’s other sites took a different approach. In some states that require age checks to visit adult websites, you’ll be greeted by a safe-for-work video from porn star Cherie DeVille, where she explains Pornhub’s stance on the data privacy issues at hand.

The adult actors who live in these states can still use Pornhub through their creator accounts, because they’ve already verified their identity as a pre-requisite to uploading content on the site.

These changes in state internet regulations come at a time when access to online platforms is up for debate in Congress. The Kids Online Safety Act and similar bills are picking up steam in Congress after numerous hearings with tech CEOs about children’s internet safety, but the common refrain is that many of these safety initiatives could backfire when applied by bad actors. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives passed a bill this week that could ban TikTok and other “foreign adversary controlled applications.” Now, the TikTok bill will be debated in the Senate, where it could have wider ramifications for government interference in tech.

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