Pornhub Pulls Out of Texas as Age-Verification Law Leads Users to Seek Workarounds

After a Texas law requiring visitors of Pornhub and other adult content websites to verify their age went into effect this week, the Canadian-owned website pulled out of the Lone Star State and users there are now apparently seeking workarounds in massive numbers.

Pornhub’s homepage now displays a lengthy message to those who log on in the state after Texas HB 1181, introduced in the apparent interest of regulating the “publication or distribution of sexual material harmful to minors on an internet website,” as the law states, went into effect; the bill, which passed in June and took effect in September, makes it mandatory for pornographic websites to verify the age of consumers before allowing them to view sexually explicit content. Users must provide digital identification or use a commercial age-verification system.

A federal appeals court recently upheld the legislation, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week before celebrating Pornhub having “disabled its website in Texas” in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Thursday.

Google searches for VPNs have risen periodically in Texas since Wednesday, with Google Trends showing spikes in searches over the past two days. According to a CNN report, there has been a fourfold increase in searches for virtual private networks across the Lone Star State.

Pornhub’s message to Texas users indicated how ineffective it sees the laws to be in achieving their stated intentions.

“As you may know, your elected officials in Texas are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website,” the message to Pornhub users reads. “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 company notes that similar laws in other states — including Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, Utah and Virginia — have led porn-seekers away from the few adult websites that comply with these laws to “the thousands of websites, with far fewer safety measures in place, which do not comply [with age verification rules].”

Pornhub is calling instead for age verification on devices and that denial or access to age-restricted material be based on that verification.

The law lets Texas enforce penalties of up to $10,000 per day that an entity operates a website in violation of the age-verification requirements and allows for penalties of $250,000 for violating the law and allowing minors to access sexual material. There’s also a $10,000 penalty for retaining identifying information.

Opponents of the Texas law say the age-verification requirement is unconstitutional as it could expose those in a protected class and forces all users to complete a mechanical process before accessing protected material, which can slow people down and act as a barrier to content. It also drags down the earning potential of publishers and adds costs to users who create content.

Free Speech Coalition, an adult-industry advocacy organization that sued Texas along with other plaintiffs over the age-verification law in the above court case where an appeals court upheld the legislation said in a statement about the decision that, “Sexual expression, online and off, has been and continues to be the canary in the coal mine of free speech.”

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