Supreme Court to weigh adult industry’s challenge to Texas law

The Supreme Court has indicated it will take up a case next term involving the adult entertainment industry’s challenge to a Texas law requiring pornography sites to implement age-verification measures.

The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing the industry, is asking the court to reinstate an order blocking the Lone Star State’s enforcement of the law, which it argues violates the First Amendment.

“While purportedly seeking to limit minors’ access to online sexual content, the Act imposes significant burdens on adults’ access to constitutionally protected expression,” the petition reads.

“Of central relevance here, it requires every user, including adults, to submit personally identifying information to access sensitive, intimate content over a medium—the Internet—that poses unique security and privacy concerns,” it continues.

The law requires pornography sites to use age-verification measures to determine that visitors to the sites are at least 18 years old and to post warnings about the alleged harms of pornography.

A district judge blocked Texas from enforcing the law shortly before it was set to go into effect last September. However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals partially reversed the lower court’s ruling in March.

The federal appeals court overturned the order barring enforcement of the age-verification requirements but maintained that the pornography sites could not be forced to post warnings about their content.

Following the decision, Pornhub disabled its site in Texas, arguing that requiring people to provide identification every time they visit the site is “not an effective solution for protecting users online.”

The Free Speech Coalition filed its petition with the Supreme Court in April, also seeking a stay pending the court’s decision. However, the high court rejected its request to block the law in the meantime.

Age-verification laws, like the one in Texas, have proliferated at the state-level in recent years both for websites that host adult content and for social media platforms, prompting numerous legal challenges from groups like the Free Speech Coalition and NetChoice.

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