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Pornhub blocks access in Montana

Posted at 2:31 PM, Dec 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-29 13:35:44-05

HELENA — Pornhub, one of the largest adult content websites, has blocked people in Montana from viewing the site ahead of the enactment of a new state law that requires websites to verify the age of a person before they can access the site’s content.

Senate Bill 544, sponsored by state senator Willis Curdy (D-Missoula), revised the state’s laws related to material considered harmful to minors and the distribution of that material on the internet. The bill passed with majorities in both houses of the Montana Legislature with members of both parties voting in favor. The Senate passed the bill 47 to 3 while the House passed it 84 to 13.

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024. The bill provides the following reasoning behind the effort:

WHEREAS, pornography is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors; and

WHEREAS, due to advances in technology, the universal availability of the internet, and limited age verification requirements, minors are exposed to pornography earlier in age; and

WHEREAS, pornography contributes to the hypersexualization of teens and prepubescent children and may lead to low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior; and

WHEREAS, pornography may also impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction; and

WHEREAS, the provisions of this act are intended to provide a civil remedy for damages against commercial entities who distribute material harmful to minors

Part of SB 544 requires that websites where a "substantial portion" is considered adult material to verify the person’s age before allowing access to the site.

The law defines “reasonable age verification methods” as a government-issued ID or “any commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transactional data to verify the age of the person attempting to access the information is at least 18 years of age or older.”

Pornhub said they were specifically making the decision to block access at this time due to the government ID age verification requirement: “While safety and compliance are at the forefront of our mission, giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users, and in fact, will put children and your privacy at risk.”

Several other states have recently approved similar bans, according to The Verge, including Utah, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Lousiana, and Arkansas.

Pornhub released a statement several months ago about the issue, stating in part: "If you haven't heard, elected officials around the United States have started to introduce laws aimed at preventing children from accessing material harmful to minors online. This is great. We've supported this for years. Unfortunately, the way many elected officials have chosen to implement these laws is haphazard and dangerous."

Statement from Pornhub

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-4357 can help. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.