With Pornhub saying they’ll block Kentuckians, interest increases in VPNs. What are they?

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If Pornhub revokes access in Kentucky, will users just find new ways to access the site?

With a new law set to take effect next month requiring Kentuckians to first verify their ages before accessing content deemed “harmful to minors,” Pornhub and other major online purveyors of adult content say they’ll cut off access in the Bluegrass.

Pornhub prompted a flurry of news last week when it announced it’ll block access to Kentucky users beginning July 10 rather than comply with House Bill 278. The company said it wants to prevent minors from accessing its site, but “putting everybody’s privacy at risk won’t achieve that.”

The new law, which becomes effective July 15, requires users to provide proof they are at least 18 years old and allows for lawsuits against websites that fail to do so, or that retain customers’ personal information for too long.

Search interest for VPNs, or virtual private networks, saw an increase in Kentucky following news coverage of Pornhub’s announcement, according to Google Trends.

A VPN allows its users to protect their internet traffic while keeping their identities private online.

“As you connect to a VPN server, your internet traffic goes through an encrypted tunnel that nobody can see, including hackers, governments and your internet service provider,” a spokesperson for ExpressVPN said in an email.

More specifically, without a VPN, you are connected through your internet service provider, which assigns the device a unique internet protocol, or IP, address.

“Because your ISP is handling and directing all your traffic, it can see which websites you visit,” the spokesman said. “Your activity can be linked to you by that unique IP address.”

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Using a VPN allows your device to connect with a VPN server. Traffic still passes through your internet service provider, but the provider cannot see what websites you are visiting, and, in turn, websites can only see the IP address of the VPN server, not your device.

A VPN also allows its users to browse outside of the restrictions of their internet service provider. For example, with a VPN, a user in Kentucky could connect to a server as if they were in Illinois or Michigan.

Because there are no federal laws that prohibit or restrict the use of VPNs, it could be a method of accessing the website.

As a result of similar age-verification legislation, Pornhub has blocked access to users in Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah, Mississippi and Texas, according to a spokesperson for Aylo, which is Pornhub’s parent company.

“The best solution to make the internet safer, preserve user privacy and prevent children from accessing adult content is performing age verification at the source: on the device,” the company official wrote to the Herald-Leader last week. “The technology to accomplish this exists today. What is required is the political and social will to make it happen.

“We are eager to be part of this solution and are happy to collaborate with government, civil society and tech partners to arrive at an effective device-based age verification solution.”

Aylo highlighted that many devices offer “free and easy-to-use parental control features that can prevent children from accessing adult content without risking the disclosure of sensitive user data,” but did not specify any devices or software.

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