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Texas Law Requiring Porn Sites To Verify Ages Of Users Violates First Amendment, Federal Court Rules

Natasha Biase

A federal court has ruled that a new Texas law requiring explicit sites like PornHub to implement age verification is in violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on free speech restrictions. The law sought to keep minors off of adult sites and warn those accessing them of the potential negative impacts of porn.

According to Variety, on August 4, the Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas aiming to repeal a law scheduled to go into effect this month that would require porn sites to implement age verification methods. The law was seeking to ensure that individuals trying to access sites featuring explicit content were 18 years of age or older.

Under the law, sites would also be required to publish a health warning explaining that “pornography increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation, and child pornography” in size 14-point font and offer a toll-free number for individuals who may have a mental illness to contact for support.

Just over two months after HB 1181 was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Senior US District Judge David A. Ezra for the Western District of Texas declared that it was unconstitutional.

“The statute is not narrowly tailored and chills the speech of Plaintiffs and adults who wish to access sexual materials,” Ezra continued. “[T]he law is not narrowly tailored because it substantially regulates protected speech, is severely underinclusive, and uses overly restrictive enforcement methods.”

Ezra concludes the decision by explaining that while it is within the court’s realm of duty to shield children from sexually explicit online material, it must also ensure that laws do not violate the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from putting limitations on an individual’s freedom of speech and expression.

News of Ezra’s shocking decision comes closely after Common Sense Media published a study examining pornography use among minors. The study surveyed 1,300 teens between the ages of 13-17 in the United States and found that the average age a minor first accessed porn was just 12 years old.

In addition, 52% of survey participants reported that they had seen pornography depicting “rape, choking, or someone in pain,” while 79% claim they “learned how to have sex” from watching porn.

Concluding the study, Common Sense Media also pointed to several negative effects of watching porn at a young age, including increased sexual aggression, anxiety, depression, reduced well-being, interpersonal relationship problems, and dangerous sexual behaviors among boys.

Despite the court ruling in PornHub’s favor in Texas, Politico reports that age-verification laws have become “the most bipartisan policy in the country” that have wreaked “havoc on the porn industry.” 

As a result of Louisiana, Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia signing similar bills into law, popular sites like PornHub have either seen a decrease in online traffic or have pulled out of certain states altogether.

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Natasha Biase

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