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Pornhub goes dark in Utah to protest age verification law

Pornhub goes dark in Utah to protest age verification law


A new law in Utah will require users to verify their age when accessing adult websites.

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Photo by Adrien Fillon / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pornhub has blocked all users in Utah in protest of the state’s online age verification law that’s set to go into effect on Wednesday, as reported earlier by Vice. Users trying to access Porhub from Utah won’t be able to access any content and will instead see a message read by adult performer Cherie Deville explaining why the site has shut down 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,” Deville says. “Until a real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Utah.”

While Utah previously required pornographic sites to put up a warning label, this law takes things a set further. The Online Pornography Viewing Age Requirements bill (SB 287), which Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law in March, forces companies to verify the ages of users using a “digitized identification card” approved by the state. It’s supposed to help prevent minors from accessing explicit content and holds companies legally accountable if they fail to do so.

In its message to users, Pornhub suggests using a digital verification method that “identifies users by their device” rather than using a government-issued ID. The company also urges residents to contact their local representatives to consider an alternative identification method. Otherwise, Utah residents will be left unable to access Pornhub or will need to use a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass local laws.

A similar law aimed at protecting minors went into effect in Louisiana earlier this year, requiring users to verify their age with the state’s digital ID service when accessing pornographic websites like Pornhub. Since Pornhub complied with Louisiana’s restrictions, Utah Senator Todd Weiler believes the site will cave eventually. “They are complying with LA’s law, which is essentially the same,” Weiler wrote in a text message sent to local news station Fox 13. “So I expect they will eventually comply with Utah’s as well.”

Although Utah’s bill is geared toward protecting children, it poses clear safety and privacy risks that could put an adult’s information at risk. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, argues online age verification mandates “undermine anonymity online” while noting that a website could “misuse” the identification data they’re given.

These concerns haven’t stopped a flood of other questionably stringent age verification laws from cropping up. Another Utah law will require kids under the age of 18 to obtain parental consent before signing up for a social media site starting in March 2024. It also sets a curfew that prevents children from accessing social sites from 10:30PM and 6:30AM. Arkansas has followed up with a social media safety bill of its own, although it isn’t exactly clear on what it considers a social network.