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Pornhub Blocked in Texas

Pornhub and other affiliated adult websites have blocked access to users in Texas, amid a legal battle with the Lone Star State’s attorney general over an age-verification law.

Last week, a federal appeals court upheld a Texas law requiring pornography sites to institute age-verification measures to ensure only adults 18 and older are able to access them, while it also struck down a part of the law requiring porn sites to display “health warnings” about the content. That came after a previous federal judge’s ruling that the Texas law violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against free-speech restrictions. The Texas Attorney General’s Office immediately appealed that decision.

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A new message displayed Thursday to users with internet addresses in Texas on Pornhub (and other sites operated by parent company Aylo) explained that it was disabling access to comply with the law, as first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

“As you may know, your elected officials in Texas are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website. 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 most restrictive means of accomplishing Texas’s stated purpose of allegedly protecting minors,” the message reads in part.

The Pornhub sites’ message continued, “Until the real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Texas. 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.”

According to the message, “While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, providing identification every time you want to visit an adult platform is not an effective solution for protecting users online, and in fact, will put minors and your privacy at risk.”

Pornhub called the Texas age-verification “ineffective, haphazard and dangerous” and asserted that it will drive users “from those few websites which comply, to the thousands of websites, with far fewer safety measures in place, which do not comply. Very few sites are able to compare to the robust Trust and Safety measures we currently have in place. To protect minors and user privacy, any legislation must be enforced against all platforms offering adult content.”

The Texas law was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2023. The legislation, Texas H.B. 11811, was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1, but it was on hold after the lawsuit filed by the Free Speech Coalition (a group that includes Pornhub’s parent company) resulted in a preliminary injunction staying its enforcement. The law applies to online publishers whose content is more than one-third “sexual material harmful to minors” and requires them to verify the age of all visitors using a government-issued ID or “public or private transactional data.”

Reached for comment, the company provided a statement from Alex Kekesi, VP of brand and community at Aylo, which said in part: “This is not the end. We are reviewing options and consulting with our legal team… 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.”

Keksi also said in the statement that 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. 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.”

Pornhub and the company’s network of other sites are also blocked or restricted in at least seven other U.S. states — Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah — which have adopted similar laws.

Aylo is owned by Canadian private-equity firm Ethical Capital Partners, which acquired Pornhub’s predecessor company MindGeek for undisclosed financial terms last year. ECP has said it would focus on building the company’s “trust and safety” and to make it “the internet leader in fighting illegal online content.”

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