Pornhub blocks access to Utah users ahead of new law

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Pornhub blocks access to Utah users ahead of new law

Adult content website Pornhub has blocked access to would-be users in Utah, a day before a new state age verification law goes into effect.

The new law requires pornographic websites to verify the age of users each time they use the website or potentially face lawsuits.

Utah residents visiting the website are now greeted with a message arguing that the law will put privacy “at risk”.

Pornography was declared a public health crisis in Utah in 2016.

The Utah age verification law, known as SB287, was passed by state lawmakers and signed by governor Spencer Cox in March.

As part of the law, pornographic companies must verify the age of users using a “digitised verification card”, which officials say will help prevent young people from accessing sexually explicit content.

Starting on Tuesday, Utah residents who attempted to access Pornhub instead saw a video message featuring adult film actress – and one-time US presidential hopeful – Cherie DeVille.

“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,” Deville says in the video.

“In fact, [it] will put children and your privacy at risk.”

The video calls on lawmakers to “identify users by their device” rather than by their digital ID, and argues that the move may drive users to “sites with far fewer safety measures in place”.

The same message is shown to Utah users who attempt to access other adult websites run by Pornhub’s parent company, Canadian-run and Cyprus-headquartered MindGeek.

A similar law requiring a digital ID went into effect in January in Louisiana, where Pornhub is still available.

Utah State Senator Todd Weiler was quoted by local news station Fox 13 as saying that he expects that Pornhub “will eventually comply” with the law.

The implementation of Utah’s age verification law comes amid growing calls to verify ages of users across the internet. Mississippi and Virginia have also already passed similar age verification laws.

Beginning on 1 March, 2024, Utah will also require that social media companies verify the age of social media users and block users who don’t provide it. Users under the age of 18 will also have to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian.

Pornographic websites in the UK will need to ensure children cannot freely access their content under a new internet safety law currently making its way through Parliament.

Last week, US Senators also introduced a bill to ban children younger than 13 from using social media at all, with parental consent required for those under 17.

The moves to restrict access in this way have been met by criticism from internet rights and free speech watchdogs.

“Age verification systems are surveillance systems,” the Electronic Freedom Foundation said in a March statement. “This scheme would lead us further towards an internet where our private data is collected and sold by default.”