PornHub Blocks All Of Utah After New Law Holds Sites Responsible For Minor Access

Pornography giant PornHub has blocked all residents of Utah from accessing its content, a day before a state law goes into effect that will allow websites to be sued if they enable minors to view their videos.

A Utah bill called “Online Pornography Viewing Age Requirements” was passed unanimously by both chambers and signed into law in March by Gov. Spencer Cox. It goes into effect Wednesday. The law says that sites “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.”

But the bill also discusses a “digitized identification card” connected to a “state-approved application” — which the adult industry says doesn’t exist.

The bill says as an alternative to a state digital ID, sites can use any “reasonable method” that “relies on public or private transactional data” or data “available from a commercially available database” to verify someone’s age and identity.

On Tuesday, Alison Boden of the Free Speech Coalition, which represents the adult industry, wrote to the bill’s state Senate sponsor, Todd Weiler, that, “despite consulting over a dozen lawyers, I must admit I’m stumped. The law is so vague — and the requirements for compliance so contradictory — I cannot figure out how FSC members can follow this law.”

“Utah does not have a system for verifying a Mobile Driver’s License online,” she said. As for third-party, commercial databases, “his language seems to imply that age verification providers must contract with data brokers — an option with significant privacy issues for Utahns. This is especially so since the law does not require providers to meet any of the security standards used by reputable age verification services.”

“Without unambiguous guidance, we fear that even sites that make a good-faith effort to comply risk being sued, even if they are using more aggressive methods of age verification,” she wrote.

Louisiana passed a similar law last year and it was signed in June 2022 by the state’s Democrat governor. “They are complying with Louisiana’s law, which is essentially the same. So I expect they will eventually comply with Utah’s as well,” Weiler told local TV station FOX 13.

But that state’s government provides a mobile app that holds a digital copy of a resident’s drivers license, and which can connect with a third-party service to demonstrate a user’s age, ARS Technica previously reported.

PornHub provides a mechanism for Louisiana users to go through that process, telling them that the site “does not collect any data during this process. This process is carried out by reputable service providers who specialize in verifying the age of online users. Your proof of age does not allow anyone to trace your online activity,” according to ARS Technica.

In Utah, by contrast, the site simply blocks users from accessing videos.

Users can circumvent state bans on pornography relatively easily by using a VPN that routes their web traffic through another location.

In 2021, Cox signed a bill requiring phones and computers sold in the state to come equipped with a filter that blocks porn. The filter could be deactivated but would be on by default. However, the bill does not go into effect unless five other states pass a similar law.

Utah’s legislature is about 80% Republican. It is dominated by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and is particularly conservative on social issues such as pornography that are of importance to the church, while by other measures, the state’s Republican lawmakers are some of the most moderate in the country, a Daily Wire analysis of state legislative voting records found.

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