Pornhub blocks access in Mississippi, Virginia and Utah amid changing laws

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Pornhub is blocking access from users in states like Mississippi, Virginia and Utah, which have recently passed laws that require age verification to access adult websites.

Similar legislation went into effect in Louisiana at the start of the year. To comply, Pornhub required visitors to verify their age with the LA Wallet app, a digital wallet for Louisiana state driver’s licenses.

“Since then, our traffic in Louisiana dropped approximately 80 percent,” Pornhub wrote in a statement. “Those people did not stop looking for porn. They just migrated to other corners of the internet that don’t verify age, that don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously, and that often don’t even moderate content.”

Internet privacy advocates have long been critical of these age checks, which require users to share personal information like their government ID in order to use the internet. It’s not all that uncommon for hackers to breach government databases, which calls into question just how secure these age verification tools are. Laws like these are becoming more widespread; related legislation will go into effect in Texas and Montana by 2024.

Instead of using age checks in impacted states, Pornhub has opted for a different approach, barring access from those states altogether. If you try to navigate to Pornhub in states like Mississippi, Virginia or Utah, you’ll see adult star Cheri DeVille explain these risks in a safe-for-work video.

“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.

On the performer side, Pornhub requires adult actors to prove their age and identity to cut down on nonconsensual content and child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Enacted in 2020, this policy is far from perfect, and Pornhub remains at the center of several lawsuits regarding CSAM. But most porn sites are even less regulated than Pornhub. If consumers are required to hand over legal documents in order to watch porn, they will likely seek out other, less moderated sites (… or a VPN).

In its statement, Pornhub proposes that on-device age verification is the solution to the privacy issues inherent in online age checks.

“Many devices already offer free and easy-to-use parental control features that can prevent children from accessing adult content without risking the disclosure of sensitive user data,” Pornhub wrote. Still, there are security challenges with this potential solution, as parents may not be savvy enough to prevent children from bypassing these features.

These challenges for Pornhub come at a time of much corporate shakeup; its parent company MindGeek was recently sold to a brand new private equity firm, Ethical Capital Partners. Just last year, MindGeek’s CEO and COO both left the company.

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