Age Verification Laws Prompt Pornhub to Exit Texas

It's one front in a much larger discussion

Laptop with Pornhub on it
A group of websites is making their exit from the Lone Star State.
Adrien Fillon/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There’s a growing series of laws in the United States and overseas that seek to restrict access to certain websites based on the user’s age. A 2023 New York Times headline dubbed this “A Driver’s License for the Internet” — even as the story noted the logistical and legislative challenges of implementing such a system. There’s also a political dimension to this — and the most recent manifestation of that has been Pornhub’s parent company Aylo blocking access to its properties in Texas.

As 404 Media’s Samantha Cole reported, the conflict between Aylo and Texas’s state government went beyond the existence of age verification laws. At issue was a Texas law, HB 1181, which would have also required sites displaying pornography to feature a large warning message stating that porn is “potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses and weakens brain function.”

As the Houston Chronicle reported, the law went into effect on September 1, 2023.

Texas-based visitors to Pornhub will find, in place of the site, a message detailing the company’s objections to Texas’s law. “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,” the statement reads in part.

Texas isn’t the only state where Pornhub has gone dark. As Cole writes at 404, it is the eighth state overall where the company has removed access rather than implementing an age verification system.

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Laws governing age verification are becoming a hot topic in the nation’s political discourse for reasons far beyond access to adult content. A statement published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation last year opened with a blunt declaration: “Age verification systems are surveillance systems.” And while the debate over Texans’ access to online porn is unlikely to stop, it’s also a thread in a much larger discussion.

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