Pornhub has blocked access to its platform in Texas, citing the state’s new age verification laws. Frustrated Texans must now scatter to the winds in search of explicit imagery, like the lustful days of yore. This marks the seventh U.S. state to have been barred from Pornhub’s lewd library.

For years, Texans in search of adult content could venture to Pornhub’s website to immediately receive numerous graphic depictions of various creative sex acts. Now, people using a Texas IP are instead greeted by a very unsexy open letter explaining that its pornographic videos are no longer accessible to them.

“[W]e have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Texas,” reads Pornhub’s notice. “In doing so, we are complying with the law, as we always do, but hope that governments around the world will implement laws that actually protect the safety and security of users.”

Why has Pornhub banned Texas?

All of this comes down to age verification. The Texan Pornhub ban follows a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling last Thursday, which partially overturned an injunction against Texas House Bill 1181 (HB 1181). Ostensibly aimed at protecting minors from harmful sexual material, HB 1181 requires websites hosting pornographic material to verify users’ ages through methods such as viewing their government-issued identification. 

HB 1181 also requires such websites to display slew of scary health warnings, including claims that porn is “potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development,” “weakens brain function,” is “associated with low self-esteem and body image… and mental illnesses,” and “increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation, and child pornography.”

Though HB 1181 was initially scheduled to go into effect last September, several corporations in the adult industry obtained a preliminary injunction against it (though Pornhub and its parent company Aylo were not among them). The plaintiffs argued that HB 1181 was likely to violate both their First Amendment right to free speech and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that service providers can’t be held liable for content users publish on their platform.

However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the decision, leading to last week’s ruling that HB 1181’s age verification requirement can go ahead. 

“Applying rational-basis review, the age-verification requirement is rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in preventing minors’ access to pornography,” Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in his ruling. “Therefore, the age-verification requirement does not violate the First Amendment.”

The court further found that Section 230’s purpose is to “immunize web service providers for harm caused by unremoved speech on their website,” making it inapplicable since liability under HB 1181 doesn’t depend upon harm.

Thursday’s judgement wasn’t a complete loss for the adult industry. The ruling did uphold the injunction on HB 1181’s health warnings, finding that the demanded disclaimers “unconstitutionally compelled plaintiffs’ speech.” However, that win means little if Texans are unable to access Pornhub anyway.

Taking to Twitter/X, Paxton quickly claimed Pornhub’s withdrawal from Texas as a victory.

“Sites like PornHub are on the run because Texas has a law that aims to prevent them from showing harmful, obscene material to children,” said Paxton. “In Texas, companies cannot get away with showing porn to children. If they don’t want to comply, good riddance.”

Pornhub isn’t against age verification

Pornhub could continue operating in Texas if it followed HB 1181’s age verification requirements and began checking users’ IDs. However, the company has expressed concern about doing so, contending that the specific age verification methods mandated by the Texan legislation are “ineffective, haphazard, and dangerous.”

“Not only does this impinge on the rights of adults to access protected speech, it fails strict scrutiny by employing the least effective and yet also the most restrictive means of accomplishing Texas’s stated purpose of allegedly protecting minors,” wrote Pornhub.

That isn’t to say Pornhub is completely against any sort of age verification for adult content. The pornography platform simply believes it needs to take a different form — specifically, device-based age verification. 

Rather than require adult-oriented websites to individually check visitors’ identities, a device-based system would hold verification of a users’ age on their phone, tablet, computer, or device manufacturer’s network. Devices would come with blocks on child-unfriendly websites pre-installed, with these restrictions only lifted once its user’s age has been verified.

According to Pornhub, this would allow for more consistent enforcement of age restrictions, as well as prevent curious minors from accessing alternate porn platforms that don’t comply with the law.

“We believe that the only effective solution for protecting minors and adults alike is to verify users’ age on their device and to either deny or allow access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that verification,” wrote Pornhub. “To come to fruition, such an approach requires the cooperation of manufacturers and operating-system providers.”

Spank banks across the U.S. suffer shrinkage

Losing Pornhub is already a massive blow to horny Texans across the sizable state. Sadly, their alternate options for risque content have also been reduced. Aylo has blocked Texan IPs from accessing all its other free adult entertainment websites as well, including Brazzers, YouPorn, and RedTube, removing a significant swathe of material from Texan spank banks.

In a statement to Mashable, Aylo’s Vice President of Brand and Community Alex Kekesi said that the company was “reviewing options and consulting with [its] legal team.”

“Aylo has publicly supported age verification of users for years, but we believe that any law to this effect must ensure minors do not access content intended for adults and preserve user safety and privacy,” said Kekesi. “We believe that the real solution for protecting minors and adults alike is to verify users’ ages at the point of access — the users’ devices — and to deny or permit access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that verification.”

“We will continue to fight for our industry and the performers that legally earn a living, and we will continue to appeal through all available judicial recourse to recognize that this law is unconstitutional.”

Texas isn’t the first U.S. state that Aylo has banned. Its platforms previously exiled North Carolina and Montana in January over similar legislation, following bans in Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Source link