News State

A look at the battle between Texas and adult content sites

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Two weeks ago, the online adult content website, Pornhub, suspended services in Texas over objections to an age verification law Gov. Greg Abbott signed last year.

H.B. 1181 is a bipartisan bill requiring companies that offer “sexual material harmful to minors” to verify that its users are at least 18 years old. The site claims the legislation stifles First Amendment rights which the company says violates their First Amendment rights

“Elected officials in Texas are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website,” the company said in a public statement. “Not only does this impinge on the rights of adults to access protected speech, it fails strict scrutiny by employing the least effective and yet also most restrictive means of accomplishing Texas’s stated purpose of allegedly protecting minors.”

The legislation required users to prove their age by entering information from a government-issued ID or using a third-party system that uses public and private data. 

It also required porn sites to display health warnings like “TEXAS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES WARNING: Pornography increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation and child pornography.”

Even though the law was designed to help minors, students at UH feel it’s a positive change and support the implementation. 

“Nowadays, I feel like we’re making women wear skimpy outfits in porn and it’s becoming a more common thing, and I don’t feel like it should be,” said strategic communication senior Hudson Shaw. “So I feel like what’s going on right now is pretty good.” 

While the law was signed to protect minors from being exposed to porn, the plaintiffs argue that the law is violating freedom of speech and is unfair and ineffective.

Alex Kekesi, vice president of brand and community at the Canadian adult entertainment conglomerate, Aylo, or previously known as MindGeek said in a statement to The Washington Post that the age verification requirement was overbroad and did little to protect children. 

“Not only will it 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,” Kekesi said.

Efforts to regulate adult content online date back to nearly 30 years, during the initial days of the internet.

Many states including North Carolina, Virginia, Utah, Arkansas, Montana and Mississippi have also implemented similar legislation. 

“I feel like in a way it is good that they removed it because women can be very sexualized when it comes to porn, especially from the male gaze,” said strategic communication senior Jasmin Arredondo. “But I think this also allows people to go to other sources, which might not be the best.” 

Students like Arredondo believe this is one step in the right direction, but it could also mean a few steps back.

Content creators would likely lose out on revenue from millions of Texas users who no longer are able to access Pornhub, Kekesi told the Texas Tribune.

Aylo has planned to appeal the decision and continues fighting for the adult entertainment industry and the performers, Kekesi said. 

“I get the whole free speech and free market, that’s fine but at the same time, it doesn’t need to be, broadcasted as heavily as it is,” Shaw said. “A statement like that should not be coming from a porn company. Telling people to rally around and get porn back up and running.” 

While students like Shaw and Arredondo think this was a good decision by the government, they still believe there could have been better ways to implement it. 

Shaw said that while the decision is in a positive direction, it could’ve been economically and politically correct if there had been more discussions between the two parties. 

Despite the ban, citizens of Texas have found a way around restrictions and can access the site by using VPN services.

According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, Express VPN saw a 48% increase in web traffic from Texas. 

Websites like Pornhub argue that these new rules are restricting adults and forcing them to hand over private data. 

According to the Washington Post, Pornhub and other adult entertainment sites said that restrictive measures at the point of content, such as browser extensions or device filters that parents can install, are more effective to protect minors. 

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