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Pornhub blocks access in Utah to challenge age verification law

MindGeek believes requiring users to verify their ages with IDs isn't effective or secure.

Ethan Miller via Getty Images

Utah's age verification law, which targets publishers distributing material deemed to be "harmful to minors on the internet," has gone into effect. As a response, MindGeek has chosen to block everyone in the state from being able to access its websites, including Pornhub. As Motherboard reports, if somebody with a Utah IP address accesses Pornhub, they'll now be met with a video of adult performer Cherie DeVille. In it, DeVille explained that the company believes requiring users to submit their government IDs isn't the most effective solution to protecting its users and could even put their privacy at risk.

She continued that "mandating age verification without proper enforcement" has driven users to other sites with fewer safety measures in states with the same law. MindGeek believes that the most effective solution to identify users is by doing so through their device. "Until a real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Utah," DeVille said, ending the video with a plea for residents in the state to contact their representatives and demand device-based verification solutions.

In January, a law requiring adult websites to deploy age verification measures and ensure their visitors are 18 or older went into effect in Lousiana. Pornhub, however, didn't block all users in the state, and is currently verifying people's ages using Lousiana's digital wallet app for driver's licenses. A Pornhub spokesperson told us that Utah does have a digital wallet, but it can't be used online like Louisiana's. They said the Pornhub team did try to find a solution that uses it for age verification, but it ultimately didn't work. The spokesperson also revealed that despite complying with Louisiana law, the website's traffic has dropped 80 percent in the state since it started requiring ID-based age verification. Reiterating DeVille's statement, they said that the users Pornhub had lost likely just moved to other sites with fewer safety and privacy measures in place and that the only effective age verification solution is at the device level.

Laurie Schlegel, the Republication representative who spearheaded the age verification law in Lousiana, explained she championed the bill because she believes that the digital world needed adult-only zones, such as bars where patrons are asked for IDs. At least two dozen states, including Utah, followed Louisiana's example by introducing age verification legislation over the past year. So, even if Pornhub finds a way to unblock Utah residents, a lot of people elsewhere in the US might find themselves having to verify their ages on the website using a government ID.

Update 05/02/23 12:32PM ET: Added statement from a Pornhub spokesperson.