Good news for Virginia and Mississippi parents and kids. Pornhub is no longer available in those states thanks to new state laws that require age verification to enter the site. Eech bill passed with solid bipartisan support and will simply require pornographic websites to add an age verification step. Seems appropriate. One might even say it’s common sense. Utah passed a similar bill in May. 

Yet, Pornhub isn’t having it. Instead of complying, PornHub decided it would no longer operate in those states. Parents are celebrating.

Yet, it’s worth examining the arguments against these laws. As great as it is that these websites will be harder to access, some critics are worried about the ease with which people (of all ages) can figure out ways to work around these age verification restrictions. Others have raised privacy issues (although in most cases, users simply have to answer the question “are you over 18” to enter a site so that seems a weaker augment against these restrictions). One compelling argument comes from Pornhub itself, which said in a statement reacting to the Virginia bill: 

“When a similar law was enacted in Louisiana in January, Pornhub was one of the few sites to comply. Since then, our traffic in Louisiana dropped approximately 80 percent…These people did not stop looking for porn. They just migrated to other 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.”

I’m not so sure Pornhub really cares about safety considering some of the allegations against the company and the ease with which minors can access its content, but it is worth noting that Pornhub isn’t the only bad guy out there and people certainly can shop around. As with other prohibitive actions by the government, bans and restrictions often just fuel a different source and a black market that can be much more harmful than the one with some government oversight. This just might be the case with these sorts of well-meaning laws.

One thing that struck me as interesting though. While Democrats in the Virginia legislature strongly supported the age verification bill and echoed the Republican position that age verification is necessary to protect kids from online porn, these same Virginia Democrats are fighting to keep pornographic books in public school libraries. 

Consider the fact that in 2021, local Virginia TV stations including ABC, CBS and NBC refused to air an IWV advertisement depicting sexually explicit materials – from the very same books that are available in many Virginia middle and high schools – citing federal law which prohibits airing pornographic images. Ummmm, maybe Virginia Democrats need to straighten out their priorities. Why is porn bad if it’s delivered online but not bad if it’s delivered through your kid’s school library?