Can a Texas Law Makes Porn Sites Check Users’ IDs? Here’s What Judge Said

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Can a Texas Law Makes Porn Sites Check Users’ IDs? Here’s What Judge Said


A Texas judge has released an injunction to halt the enforcement of an online age verification bill that would require porn sites to check users’ IDs.

According to TechCrunch, the bill, known as HB 1181, faced legal challenges from the Free Speech Coalition and adult video websites, including Pornhub, which argued that it violated the First Amendment and infringed on rights protected by Section 230.

(Photo : LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
This photograph taken in Toulouse, southern France, shows screens displaying an age restriction warning sign and the logos of the pornographic sites Pornhub (R) and Xhamster (L), on May 24, 2022.

Texas Judge’s Ruling in Enforcing ID Checks on Porn Sites

In his ruling, Judge David Alan Ezra acknowledged the state’s goal of protecting children from explicit online material. However, he emphasized the need to ensure that the law adheres to established First Amendment principles. 

He highlighted concerns regarding the bill’s requirement for adult sites to display a “public health warning” regarding the potential mental health effects of pornography, stating that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission had not made these findings or announcements.

The bill sponsored by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton aimed to implement age verification measures on adult websites to ensure that only adults can access explicit content. 

It also mandated the display of a warning message, which claimed that watching pornography could lead to mental illness, increased demand for prostitution, and child sexual exploitation.

While many states have recently introduced laws to age-gate adult websites in an effort to protect minors from inappropriate content, digital privacy advocates have long expressed concerns about the potential drawbacks of online ID verification.

HB 1181 did not allow companies or third-party verifiers to retain users’ identifying information, but ensuring such compliance proved challenging. Privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, pointed out that once users shared their information for age verification, they had no guarantee that the data would not be retained, shared, or sold.

In January, a similar law was enacted in Louisiana, where Pornhub conducted age verifications through the state’s digital driver’s license app, LA Wallet. However, this approach raised privacy concerns as users had to share their government-issued IDs to access the site.

Under the Texas bill, adult websites will face fines for non-compliance, with the Attorney General able to sue sites for $250,000 each time a minor accessed explicit material.

Read Also: Number Of Deepfake Videos Online Rises 84 Percent In Less Than A Year

Similar Laws

Several other states, such as Mississippi, Virginia, and Utah, have implemented similar laws to protect minors from adult content. Pornhub’s response to these laws has been to restrict access entirely in those states, replacing explicit content with a safe-for-work video explaining their stance on age verification.

While many porn sites, including Pornhub and OnlyFans, require adult actors to verify their age and identity to combat non-consensual and exploitative content, concerns about child sexual abuse material (CSAM) remain. 

TechCrunch reported that the judge’s ruling represents a deviation from the legal norms established in other states. However, it’s worth noting that several online age verification bills, including the Kids Online Safety Act, are currently being deliberated, underscoring the ongoing discussions regarding the governance of explicit content on the internet. 

The Free Speech Coalition expressed approval of the court’s judgment, contending that the bill’s primary intent appeared to be limiting First Amendment-protected expression rather than safeguarding young individuals.

Related Article: Children As Young As 7 Are Unintentionally Finding Porn Online

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