No more Pornhub in Kentucky? World’s biggest porn site reacts to new state ID law

Above is a screenshot of a statement to users from the pornographic website PornHub.

The world’s largest pornographic website is starting to warn Kentuckians: “You will lose access.”

That comes from the website Pornhub in response to the impending effective date of House Bill 278, which requires websites with content deemed “harmful to minors” to collect documents proving the user’s adulthood before allowing them access.

The bill was passed late this year’s legislative session after a push from the Republican caucuses “Liberty” wings to add the age verification component to it.

Once on the floor, it sailed through both chambers without a single “no” vote and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

The bill will take effect July 15, the effective date for all legislation passed this year without an emergency clause.

Pornhub indicated to users that it will pull the plug on Kentucky on July 10.

“Did you know that your government wants you to give your driver’s license before you can access PORNHUB,” the site told users in a statement topped with the Kentucky state flag. “As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. As of July 10, you’ll be required to prove you are 18 years or older such as by uploading your government ID for every adult content website you’d like to access.

“We don’t want minors accessing our site and think preventing that from happening is a good thing. But putting everybody’s privacy at risk won’t achieve that.”

A spokesperson for Aylo, the parent company of Pornhub, did not directly respond to a Herald-Leader inquiry on whether or not they will eventually create a mechanism to verify Kentucky users’ age based on documents. They said the issue was not that there was no way for them to process government IDs, it’s just that doing so “puts user safety and privacy in jeopardy.”

“Aylo has publicly supported age verification of users for years, but we believe that any law to this effect must preserve user safety and privacy, and must effectively protect children from accessing content intended for adults. Unfortunately, the way many jurisdictions worldwide have chosen to implement age verification is ineffective, haphazard, and dangerous. Any regulations that require hundreds of thousands of adult sites to collect significant amounts of highly sensitive personal information is putting user safety in jeopardy,” a spokesperson for Aylo wrote.

Its statement to users indicates that it wants to use device-based age verification methods instead of relying on documents.

In an earlier statement to the Herald-Leader, the company referenced a similar law passed by Louisiana last year.

Since it took effect, Pornhub traffic has fallen by about 80% as it complied with the law, the Aylo statement said.

“These people did not stop looking for porn,” Aylo said. “They just migrated to darker corners of the internet that don’t ask users to verify age, that don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously and that often don’t even moderate content.

“In practice, the laws have just made the internet more dangerous for adults and children.”

It’s possible that legal challenges on freedom of speech grounds against the bill could occur.

Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, was the legislator who added the age verification portion to House Bill 278.

He told the Herald-Leader during session that he believed the bill would fare well in court.

In his opinion, it’s less likely that the state will get sued because the bill codifies a private right of legal action as opposed to banning the practice of not having age verification on such websites.

But if it is challenged in court, Williams said it will join several similar cases that could find their way in front of the highest court in the land.

“I think the internet, in general, is ripe for another Supreme Court review,” Williams said.

He also celebrated the possibility of sites like Pornhub leaving Kentucky, as it is signaling it will do now.

“I think it will be a good day for Kentucky kids when Pornhub and sites like it pull out,” Williams said.

The bill also creates a method for a child or the child’s parents to sue for $10,000 per incident where a pornographic website doesn’t verify a user’s age as the bill requires. Additionally, websites that retain users’ identifying information for more than 24 hours after verifying their ages are liable for damages of $1,000 per day, in addition to court costs and attorneys’ fees.

Websites that fall under the requirement include any that distribute material that is more than one-third “harmful to minors.”

The Free Speech Coalition, the trade association for the adult industry, has previously told the Herald-Leader bills like this “effectively remove anonymity from the internet and expose millions of everyday citizens to the threat of hacking, identity theft and government surveillance.”

“There are more effective solutions that don’t require government censorship or put internet users at risk,” Mike Stabile, director of public affairs for the coalition, wrote in an email to the Herald-Leader.