Pornhub shuts down operations to Texas users due to law probing limits of First Amendment

Adult website Pornhub shut down operations in Texas after a recent court ruling.

Last week, an appeals court allowed part of a new Texas law to go into effect setting age-verification requirements on content.

It’s one of several state laws probing the limits of the First Amendment.

This might not be the end of that legal battle, but it’s something those concerned about any rulings related to the First Amendment, and freedom of speech, are closely following.

If anyone in Texas tries to log on to Pornhub, they’ll now see a message from the company saying: "We have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Texas."


Pornhub disables Texas users access to the site

Pornhub announced they will be disabling access to their website for Texans after House Bill 1181 required explicit content websites to have age-verification measures in place to ban minors.

In September, a federal judge blocked a Texas law passed last year requiring age verification.

The judge reasoned that the law would not actually stop minors from seeing adult content, but it did violate First Amendment, free speech protections.

But last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the age-verification requirement.

"I'm concerned about First Amendment trends in Texas and in the Fifth Circuit," Tom Leatherbury said.

Leatherbury heads up the First Amendment Clinic at the SMU Dedman School of Law.

"You can look at the legislation and make a very strong argument that it's unconstitutional on its face because it reaches more than just obscene material, it reaches protected speech, and it penalizes or deprives, adults of access to protected speech," Leatherbury explained.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who defended the case in court, celebrated the Texas shutdown of Pornhub, writing: "In Texas, companies cannot get away with showing porn to children. If they don’t want to comply, good riddance."

Other recent Texas laws, including bills requiring book vendors to rate content and restrictions on drag shows, have also faced First Amendment challenges, and Texas is not the only state to pursue age-verification requirements for content or even social media.

The court rulings on restricting access to certain content have been mixed.

Leatherbury believes all these emerging issues might eventually be resolved at the U.S. Supreme Court.

"That's what the Supreme Court, really, can do best is resolve those types of conflicts, those doctrinal conflicts, and tell us what the law is so that businesses and individuals can arrange their affairs around those principles going forward," Leatherbury said.

The association representing adult websites who challenged the Texas law has not yet decided on its next legal steps.

That organization has argued tools like content-blockers and use by parents are more effective for protecting children.