Pornhub blocks Mississippi and Virginia over age verification laws

Pornhub is now blocking people in Mississippi and Virginia from visiting its website over laws that would require the service to verify their age. The company says it’s blocking users to protest unfair enforcement of these new laws, claiming that sites enforcing the new rules will lose traffic to “irresponsible platforms” that “don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously, and that often don’t even moderate content.”

Traffic dropped by 80 percent for Pornhub after it began enforcing age verification in Louisiana earlier this year, the company writes. After that experience, it decided to start taking its sites offline instead of enforcing an age gate. In May, it blocked access to users in Utah over a similar law. Techdirt reports that the blackout also applies to other websites operated by Pornhub’s owner, such as RedTube.

Age verification laws are increasingly been introduced and passed across the US, particularly in more conservative areas of the country, as a way to prevent children from accessing porn. A trade group for the adult entertainment industry, the Free Speech Coalition, notes similar laws passing in Texas, Montana, and Arkansas, with legislation being introduced — but failing to pass — in several other states.

The laws generally require that adult websites verify their visitors’ ages in a manner more that’s more rigorous than having them check a box saying they’re over 18. That can include checking government-issued IDs.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has pushed back against age verification mandates, criticizing the laws as “surveillance systems” that pose privacy issues to anyone who uses them. “Once information is shared to verify age, there’s no way for a website visitor to be certain that the data they’re handing over is not going to be retained and used by the website, or further shared or even sold,” the group wrote in March.