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Pornhub restricts access in Texas over new age-verification law

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In a legal dispute between adult content websites and the Texas legislature, Pornhub suspended service to Texans on Thursday after a federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that mandated  pornography websites electronically verify that their users are adults.


In a message displayed to users with internet addresses in Texas on Pornhub and other websites operated by Pornhub’s parent company Aylo Global Entertainment, it explained that it is disabling access to comply with the law instead of adding in an age verification feature.


The message, which can be read here, states in one excerpt: “Until the real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Texas.” Because of this, access to Pornhub is now indefinitely blocked in Texas unless someone possesses a VPN (virtual private network), which hides a device’s IP (internet provider) address.


The 2-1 decision from the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that blocked the law, which had previously been challenged in court by pornography producers such as Aylo.


The law was signed in June by Texas Governor Greg Abbot. The law applies to online publishers whose content is more than thirty-three percent sexual material, and requires them to verify their age using a government-issued ID or some other method that uses transactional data, either public or private.


The law, Texas H.B. 11811, was supposed to go into effect September first, but was delayed after a lawsuit filed by the Free Speech Coalition, a group that includes Pornhub parent company Aylo, resulted in a preliminary injunction that blocked its enforcement.


U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Austin, Texas, blocked the law on Aug. 31, the day before it was to take effect. In his ruling, he stated that the law removed adults' access to free speech that is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring them to identify themselves before accessing the websites.


Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, who wrote for the majority, said online age verification is the equivalent of requiring in-person age verification to buy pornographic magazines, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.


The law was a bipartisan bill created by both Republicans and Democrats, and was passed unanimously in the Senate and passed with 133 yes votes to 1 no vote in the House.


Pornhub and other similar sites have been blocked or restricted in seven other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah, which have all adopted similar laws.


Aylo is owned by Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners, which bought out Pornhub’s predecessor company MindGeek for an undisclosed amount last year.

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