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Pornhub sues Texas over new online age verification law

Pornhub and other pornographic organizations are filing a lawsuit against Texas in advance of the state's imposition of an age confirmation law on pornographic websites

Texas State Legislature
Texas State Legislature | Shutterstock

August 26, 2023 11:32am

Updated: August 26, 2023 11:32am

Pornhub, among other pornographic organizations, is filing a lawsuit against the State of Texas in advance of the state's imposition of an age confirmation law on pornographic websites.

The Free Speech Coalition joined forces with Pornhub and other pornographic organizations to bring the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas earlier this month. The lawsuit argues that age verification requirements breach the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“The Act joins a long tradition of unconstitutional — and ultimately failed — governmental attempts to regulate and censor free speech on the internet,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs also assert that the new Texas law, which is scheduled to go into effect next month, is “overbroad and does not pass strict scrutiny.”

For a new law, which infringes on a fundamental constitutional right, to pass the “strict scrutiny test” established by the Supreme Court, it must serve a “compelling government interest” and be “narrowly tailored” to achieve its objective.

In the instant case, the plaintiffs are arguing the new Texas law is unfairly targeting them since it does not contain rules regarding “search engines and most social media sites” which purportedly “pose a greater risk of exposure to adult content.”

According to the plaintiffs, consumers monitoring their own devices is a more effective approach to prevent minors from accessing pornography that government interference.

“In contrast, content filtering at the browser and/or the device level allows anyone wishing to implement that technology on minors’ devices to block access to any unwanted site, including adult sites, without impairing free speech rights or privacy,” the lawsuit asserts.

“But such far more effective and far less restrictive means don’t really matter to Texas, whose true aim is not to protect minors but to squelch constitutionally protected free speech that the State disfavors.”

The new Texas law also requires pornography websites to display a health warning label which declares that pornography is “potentially biologically addictive” and “proven to harm human brain development.”

Plaintiffs contend that the health warning is “factually false.”

A January study from Common Sense Media found that children usually encounter pornography for the first time at the age of 12. According to medical studies, the use of pornography leads to dangerously addictive levels of dopamine in the brain.

Semrush reports that Pornhub is the fourth most visited website in the United States, behind YouTube, Google, and Facebook.

Legislation similar to that passed in Texas requiring identification for pornography websites has been passed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia. After the laws were passed, the parent company of Pornhub, MindGeek, closed its operationsin Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia.

Approximately 69% of American men and 40% of American women view pornography on 12% of all websites each year, according to recent statistics published by Ballard Brief, a program sponsored by Brigham Young University Ballard Social Impact Center.

The profitability of the Adult & Pornographic Websites industry in the United States is one reason why pornography is created and circulated. In 2023, the industry's revenue will reach $1.15 billion, which will match the revenue of the NCAA.