A Texas law requiring age verification for porn sites was temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra a day before the rule took effect.
Judge Ezra granted a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking enforcement after the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) joined adult performers and sites like Pornhub in a lawsuit opposing the legislation, reports Ars Technica.
The groups reportedly convinced the judge that the new state law violates the First Amendment and would have “a chilling effect on legally protected speech.”
“This is a huge and important victory against the growing tide of online censorship,” said Alison Boden, Executive Director of FSC. “From the beginning, we have maintained that the Texas law, and laws like it, are both dangerous and unconstitutional. »
“We are pleased that the court accepted our view that the true purpose (of the law) is not to protect young people, but to prevent Texans from enjoying expression protected by the First Amendment.” , Boden added. “State advocacy was not based on science or technology, but on ideology and politics. »
Texas must now wait for the lawsuit to go to trial before it can enforce the anti-pornography law.
The Texas law is part of a wave of similar laws in states like Utah, Arkansas and Virginia aimed at making it harder for children to access Internet pornography. Breitbart News recently reported that a similar law in Louisiana cut Pornhub traffic from the state by 80%:
Louisiana House Bill 142, championed by Republican state Rep. Laurie Schlegel, requires porn sites to “implement reasonable age verification methods” before visitors are permitted access.
The age verification bill became state law in June 2022, and since then mega porn site PornHub has lost 80% of its traffic in the Pelican state, according to Policy.
The bill was so successful and popular that bipartisan coalitions passed similar bills in six states, including Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia and Texas.
A spokesperson for Pornhub’s parent company, Aylo, told Ars Technica: “We are pleased with the court’s decision today, which reaffirms our position that the age verification law implemented in Texas is unconstitutional.”
The Pornhub spokesperson went on to insist that the company has “publicly supported mandatory age verification of viewers of adult content for years, but any method of age verification must maintain confidentiality. and user safety.
“The only solution that makes the Internet safer, maintains user privacy and prevents children from accessing age-inappropriate content is to perform age verification at the device level,” added the spokesperson.
“We are pleased that the court recognizes the seriousness of forced speech and its presence in this law implemented by Texas,” the spokesperson said. “We’re proud to stand up for our industry and the artists who use it to legally make a living, and we’re happy to see the court recognize that this law is unconstitutional and would have required adult artists to falsely imply that their content presents health risks.”
Meanwhile, Paige Willey, director of communications for the Texas Attorney General’s office, told Ars Technica that the office “will decide whether to stay the injunction and appeal that decision.”
In addition to free speech concerns, the FSC says the law would have exposed consumers to “significant privacy risks” by requiring adult visitors to a website to present a digital ID.
In his order, Judge Ezra wrote that “the state has a legitimate objective to protect children from sexually explicit material online”, but that “this does not remove the burden on this Court to ensure that laws enacted for its purpose conform to the established doctrine of the First Amendment. »
Ezra said that while “a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy,” it was necessary because the court ruled the law unconstitutional, Ars Technica reported.
Additionally, the judge agreed with the FSC and Pornhub that Texas could achieve its goal of protecting children from adult content in other ways. One was the FSC’s suggestion that parental filters are “a more effective method of protecting minors.”
“There are viable, constitutional means to achieve Texas’s objective, and nothing in this order precludes the state from pursuing those means,” Judge Ezra said.
Pornhub also protested a similar law in Louisiana and even blocked access to its site in Utah, Mississippi and Virginia after those states passed age verification laws.
The case is Free Speech Coalition, Inc. et al v. Colmenero in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.
You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangeloand on Instagram.