Pornhub blocks North Carolina and Montana as porn regulation spreads

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Pornhub has restricted access in two more states in protest of continued nationwide state-level efforts to regulate online access to porn. 404Media reported that residents in both North Carolina and Montana visiting Pornhub and other Aylo-owned sites like Redtube or Brazzers are now greeted by a video of performer Cherie DeVille, and a handful of paragraphs, telling them their states are now blocked. Aylo began blocking access in the states last week, according to reporting from multiple outlets including The Fayetteville Observer and KRTV in Great Falls, Montana.

The move is meant to protest laws that went into effect in both states on January 1st. Montana passed a standalone ID verification law in May, and North Carolina’s new law was tacked onto a bill regarding the high school computer curriculum. The laws require sites to either use third-party verification or, in the case of Montana, “digitized identification” to verify a visitor’s age. Both states also leave enforcement as a civil matter, allowing individuals to sue if they think a site violates the law.

That all makes it much more difficult for a website like Pornhub to operate. Pornhub and other sites aren’t opposed to age-gating content, and Pornhub prefers the use of device identifiers for age verification. It is, however, opposed to the methods required by these new laws.

A screenshot of the message as seen on Pornhub for Utah users.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot: Wes Davis / The Verge

The message displayed by Aylo’s sites claims few adult sites can “compare to the robust Trust and Safety measures we currently have in place.” The message contends that the “most effective solution” is to allow access based on device identifiers.

Despite the company’s safety claims, Aylo was recently fined $1.8 million by the federal government for allegedly willfully hosting videos of sex trafficking victims.

Montana and North Carolina have joined a small list of states with restricted access to Pornhub. Louisiana, Utah, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia have passed similar laws, prompting Pornhub to block access in those states as well. Meanwhile, Texas passed its own identification law, currently under appeal in the Fifth Circuit, that also requires adult film sites to show unsubstantiated warnings about the health risks of watching porn.

Pornhub will have to find some way to manage age verification as a cornucopia of laws hit it in states around the US, and even overseas. In the EU, for instance, the company was just deemed a “Very Large Online Platform” that will have to make sure it knows how old its users are. Otherwise, giant swaths of people worldwide might have to turn once more to the darkest corners of the internet to find their porn, or start picking it up on Blu-Ray.

Correction January 2nd, 2024, 5:23PM ET: A previous version of this article implied Pornhub currently used device identifiers for age verification; we’ve updated to reflect this has not been confirmed.

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