Pornhub Blocks Utah Users From Its Site to Protest Age-Verification Law

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The pornography website Pornhub blocked all internet users in Utah from accessing the explicit content on its pages in protest of an age-verification law that requires providing identification and was set to go into effect on Wednesday.

The law is intended to protect minors from exposure to explicit adult content, its supporters have said, but Pornhub has said that the measure is too restrictive.

Utah users attempting to visit the Pornhub website are now met with a video message from Cherie DeVille, an adult performer and member of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee. In it, she tells them that “until a real solution is offered” the website will be inaccessible in the state.

“While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users and, in fact, will put children and your privacy at risk,” Ms. DeVille says in the video. “In addition, mandating age verification without proper enforcement gives platforms the opportunity to choose whether or not to comply.”

In introducing the bill at a meeting of the Senate’s judiciary, law enforcement and criminal justice committee on Feb. 24, State Senator Todd D. Weiler described it as a proposal in line with other laws that keep children from adult products such as alcohol, vaping devices and tobacco.

“It’s not saying that you can’t view pornography as an adult,” said Senator Weiler, a Republican. “It’s saying that you just have to show that you are an adult,” he added. “You should be able to have to prove that you are an adult to view pornography, because it’s illegal for children to view it and it’s illegal for adults to show it for children.”

But Ms. DeVille, in the website’s video, said that the new law will not protect children and other users. She said that it instead will drive them to other sites with fewer safety measures. She encouraged users to contact their representatives to demand “device-based verification solutions that make the internet safer while also respecting your privacy.”

She also said that the best approach to protect children and adults was to offer users “age-restricted materials and websites” by identifying them through their devices.

Utah’s age-verification law was signed by Gov. Spencer J. Cox on March 14 and is to take effect on Wednesday. The law requires online publishers of pornography or other materials that could be “harmful to minors” to verify that users are at least 18 years old.

“A commercial entity that knowingly and intentionally publishes or distributes material harmful to minors on the internet from a website that contains a substantial portion of such material shall be held liable if the entity fails to perform reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of an individual attempting to access the material,” the law says.

A commercial entity that violates the measure can be held liable “for damages resulting from a minor’s accessing the material.”

In a statement, Governor Cox said: “The very least we can do as a society is to ask companies to verify the age of those viewing the pornography they produce and distribute. This unanimous, bipartisan legislation provides multiple ways to satisfy that requirement. However, I fully support PornHub’s decision to remove their content in Utah.”

Last year, a similar law was put into place in Louisiana. That state is at the forefront of a sweeping national push to insulate children and teens from online pornography and other potentially harmful content. In addition to Louisiana and Utah, nearly a dozen other states have introduced similar age-verification bills.

Civil liberties groups have said that the laws may create barriers for children and adults alike looking to access information online, which could amount to a violation of their free speech rights.

Another Utah law requiring that social apps like TikTok and Instagram verify their users’ ages and obtain parental consent before granting accounts to minors is set to become effective on Wednesday. Though many sites ask for birth dates when users sign up, the new state law could prompt platforms to implement stricter age-verification systems requiring the use of government IDs.

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