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Pornhub blocks its site in North Carolina and Montana to protest age verification

They join a growing list of US states that, like them, require proof of majority to watch pornographic videos.

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Pornhub blocks its site in North Carolina and Montana to protest age verification

They join a growing list of US states that, like them, require proof of majority to watch pornographic videos. The states of Montana and North Carolina have just lost access to the sites of Pornhub's parent company, Aylo, which also owns the X sites Redtube, Brazzers and YouPorn.

This decision was taken by this group, which considers that the obligation, imposed on it since January 1, to verify the age of its visitors “is not the most effective solution to protect users and would put the children as well as your privacy in danger. The Aylo group therefore preferred to withdraw from these markets rather than comply with the legislation, “while waiting for a real solution to be proposed”.

A year ago, Louisiana led the way in a wave of age verification laws that target adult sites. Eight states, including Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Utah, have since adopted similar rules. Anyone visiting a site owned by Aylo from these states is now greeted by a video message and a text signed by porn actress Cherie DeVille, explaining that the site is inaccessible and accusing the elected officials behind these laws.

In Utah, Google searches for “VPN” (a tool for fake location) are skyrocketing after Pornhub was self-blocked in the state last May. Same pattern in Montana (1.1 million inhabitants) and North Carolina (10.55 million) with an explosion of these searches to regain access to the site, according to American media 404.

The ambition of these laws is to force pornographic sites to really reserve their access to adults only. If pornographic sites are in theory prohibited for minors, in reality, the vast majority simply ask Internet users to click on a box to certify that they are over 18 years old.

Many governments around the world are tackling this problem. But they face the difficult task of implementing age verification solutions that do not pose a risk to privacy. Age verification typically involves either facial analysis technology that estimates the person's age or uploading an ID document.

“We believe that the best and most effective solution to protect children and adults is to identify users by their device and authorize access to content based on this identification,” argues Pornhub on its platform.

In France, some 2.3 million minors, or one in three, watch on average more than 50 minutes of pornographic content each month, according to a Médiamétrie study. A 2020 law therefore requires porn sites to verify the age of their users, but does not explain by what means. In the name of this text, Arcom, the regulator in France, has been in court since 2021 against Pornhub and Xvideos, who are increasing their appeals.

Last December, the European Commission added Pornhub, Stripchat and XVideos to the list of very large online platforms subject to increased controls under the Digital Services Act (DSA). They join TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), Google and Facebook (Meta), which each have more than 45 million active users in the EU. They will therefore be subject to stricter rules, to ensure in particular that they implement tools for the protection of minors, as well as better content moderation.

These platforms must comply by April 20. Violators of the rules can face fines of up to 6% of their global annual turnover, or even a ban from operating in Europe.

Pornhub, however, said it did not reach the threshold of 45 million users set by the EU. In a message on its platform, it maintains that “as of July 31, 2023, Pornhub has 33 million monthly users in the European Union, on average over the last six months”.

From February 17, all pornographic sites, regardless of their audience, will be subject to the requirements of the DSA. Their regulator will become the authority of the European country where their head office is established.

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