Pornhub and its affiliates stopped accepting online traffic from Texas on Friday, protesting the state’s policy forcing pornography companies to verify the age of their viewers.

The pornography juggernaut’s abrupt exit follows the conclusion of a nine-month legal battle over the constitutionality of the age verification bill, which Texas signed into law last June. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the law constitutional earlier this month.

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows Texas to start enforcing the law, which requires businesses that distribute a substantial amount (one-third or more of all published content) of “sexual material harmful to minors” use age verification technology to ensure their online visitors are adults.

Porn companies who violate the law face stiff penalties from the state Attorney General’s office, including up to $10,000 every day age verification technology isn’t used and $250,000 if a child accesses obscene content due to lack of age checks.

Alex Kekeski, vice president of brand and community for Pornhub’s parent company, Aylo, claims the company is taking a stand for free speech.

“Not only will the law not actually protect children, it will inevitably reduce content creators’ ability to post and distribute legal adult content and directly impact their ability to share the artistic messages they want to convey with it,” Kekeski tells the Washington Post.

But the Fifth Circuit argues age restrictions don’t necessarily infringe on adults’ free speech rights. In its opinion, the Court points to case law establishing that the government:

  • Has a legitimate interest in protecting children’s welfare.
  • Can put more limits on speech available to children than adults.
  • Has more leeway to limit children’s access to inappropriate sexual content than other kinds of adult content, like violence.

Regardless of the sincerity of their free speech concerns, Kekeski and Aylo have billions of reasons to oppose age verification legislation.

Billions of dollars-worth of reasons, that is.

The more visitors Pornhub attracts, the more businesses will pay to advertise on their website.

In a 2020 expose on Pornhub, New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof found  the obscene website received 3.5 billion visits per month — more than  Netflix or Amazon — and ran three billion ads every day.

Age verification laws reduce Pornhub’s web traffic, which ultimately shrinks its profits. After Louisiana adopted America’s first age verification law in 2023, traffic to the website from that state fell 80%, Pornhub’s owners told CNN.

More insidiously, porn companies want minors to visit their sites because they bring in the most money. Developing brains form more extreme addictions faster than fully-formed ones; kids hooked on porn visit sites like Pornhub more often and tend to stay for longer — all good things for pornographers’ checkbooks.

The Institute for Family Studies puts it bluntly:

Online porn companies are addicting American kids because addiction keeps children on their platforms, where they can be primed for manipulation by graphic advertisements from third parties.

Pornhub and its affiliates appear seem to hope that pulling out of states with age verification laws will encourage porn addicts desperate for a fix to pressure lawmakers to change the policy.

Pornhub stopped accepting web traffic from Utah, Mississippi and Virginia after each passed age verification laws in 2023. People attempting to access the site were redirected to a video encouraging users to call their legislators and demand the laws be overturned.

As of today, Pornhub blacklists users from Utah, Mississippi, Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah and Texas — the only states in the country with age verification laws (except for Indiana, who became the ninth state to pass such legislation on Friday).

Thankfully, these bold eight are not alone. Nineteen states have age verification laws on their 2024 legislative agenda. Visit our webpage on age verification laws for more information and links to specific bills. To read more about legislative priorities in your state and how you can get involve, contact your local Family Policy Council.

Additional Articles and Resources

Pornography Age Verification Laws: What They Are and Which States Have Them

Pro-Family Think Tanks Offer Smart Policy Ideas Protecting Children from Big Tech

‘The Dirty Dozen List’ – Corporations Enable and Profit from Sexual Exploitation