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Roku is booting Pornhub and cutting off other private channels

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A loophole allowed pornography to operate on the platform

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

After Roku announced last week that it will soon remove non-certified channels from its service, it appears the change will close a loophole that allowed apps like Pornhub to exist on the platform.

The company announced last week that it would be removing so-called “non-certified channels” by March of 2022. The change comes as Roku introduces new tools for developers, including a new independent developer kit that operates separately from its primary software developer kit for commercial-use channels. It also announced that it’s launching new beta testing capabilities that will allow app makers to run tests on their apps before making the changes live on the service.

The independent developer kit will allow developers to tinker with and customize their Roku experience for personal use, such as by developing games that work with the Roku remote or connecting their Roku devices to their smart home gadgets. Roku says these changes are about aligning its platform with industry-standard approaches and development tools used by other companies.

A warning sign shown to users when they add a non-certified channel on Roku.
Image: The Verge/Roku

But with these changes, Roku has opted to pull “non-certified channels” that were previously used by developers for testing. These channels aren’t available in the Roku channel store because, as the company told The Verge last week, they are, in “most cases,” used for testing channels ahead of their launch on Roku. In a statement, a spokesperson said this week that because of its recently announced changes, these non-certified channels “are no longer necessary.”

It’s not clear how many non-certified channels will be removed as a result of the change, and the company declined to comment when asked by The Verge last week. But it’s expected to impact several adult entertainment apps that could be added to Roku with unique codes. Protocol reported this week that beyond Pornhub, the change is expected to impact other private channels like Adult Time and Wicked, among others.

Users who attempt to sideload channels this way are shown warning messages that the platform “does not test or review non-certified channels” and that some content may be “offensive or inappropriate for some audiences.” Additionally, Roku warns, these channels may be removed at any time, and a user’s account may be blocked from adding other non-certified channels if it determines that the channel in question contains illegal content or otherwise violates its terms.