Pornhub Blocks Access in Texas Over Age Verification Law, 'VPN' Searches Skyrocket (UPDATE)

After abandoning Montana and North Carolina earlier this year, the popular pornography website is pulling out of Texas, too.

Signage displaying the logo of an adult entertainment platform
Ethan Miller via Getty Images
Signage displaying the logo of an adult entertainment platform

UPDATED 3/18, 9:20 p.m. ET: Searches for the term “VPN” surged in Texas after Pornhub and its associated websites blocked access to users in the state in protest of the state’s age-verification law for pornography websites, Variety reports.

Data from Google Trends suggests that searches for VPNs—or “virtual private networks,” which help users create encrypted connections and can mask their locations—increased by more than 400 percent among Texans since the adult video website disabled access last Thursday.

Other metro areas tracked by Google show that the highest search volume for VPNs in the past seven days included, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, Waco-Temple-Bryan, and San Antonio.

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Pornhub is no longer available in Texas after the company announced plans to protest the state's attorney general's age-verification law.

The hugely popular pornography site—which pulled out of North Carolina and Montana earlier this year over bills regulating online pornography access—has made the "difficult decision" to "completely disable access" to the website in the Lone Star State, per a message displayed on its landing page.

"As you may know, your elected officials in Texas are requiring us to verify your age before allowing you access to our website," reads the message displayed to users who try to access Pornhub in Texas. "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."

By blocking access to Texas netizens, Pornhub is complying with the age verification law, which was passed last year. A federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that requires more vigorous age-verification measures but ruled against a portion of the law that would require pornographic websites to display "health warnings" about porn consumption.

"Providing identification every time you want to visit an adult platform is not an effective solution for protecting users online, and in fact, will put minors and your privacy at risk," the message on Pornhub's website continues. "The safety of our users is one of our biggest concerns. We believe that the only effective solution for protecting minors and adults alike is to verify users’ age on their device and to either deny or allow access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that verification."

The company has asserted the age verification methods will send users to other websites with "far fewer safety measures in place," including ones that fail to implement Trust and Safety measures.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in June 2023 with initial plans for it to go into effect in September. However, it was met with a lawsuit by the Free Speech Coalition, forcing a preliminary injunction. The only way to access such content in Texas going forward would be a government-issued ID.

Prior to the website being blocked in the state, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Pornhub's parent company to force it to comply with the law. "Texas has a right to protect its children from the detrimental effects of pornographic content,” Paxton said, per Houston Chronicle. "I look forward to holding any company accountable that violates our age verification laws intended to prevent minors from being exposed to harmful, obscene material on the internet."

Pornhub is now unavailable in a total of six states, including Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

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