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Federal appeals court allows pornography age verification mandate in Texas By Jenny Goldsberry

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled in favor of the Texas law requiring age verification for online pornography sites.

The 2-1 decision lifted an injunction against HB 1181 that has been in effect since August. Pornhub and the adult industry group Free Speech Coalition challenged the legislation in court to slow down the wave of calls for age verification to keep children off of their websites. Arkansas, Utah, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana have passed similar mandates.

“Applying rational-basis review, the age-verification requirement is rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in preventing minors’ access to pornography,” the majority opinion read. “Therefore, the age-verification requirement does not violate the First Amendment.”

“BIG WIN: In Texas, companies cannot get away with making pornographic material accessible to children,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote on X.

However, the dissenting opinion from Judge Patrick Higginbotham took issue with users’ privacy, as he wrote, “Simply claiming that the ‘age verification preserves online anonymity’ does not make it so.”

“We disagree strenuously with the analysis of the Court majority,” the Free Speech Coalition wrote. “Our battle, of course, is just beginning. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen how this designation has been weaponized to censor and ban LGBTQ+ literature, reproductive rights resources, sex education, art, and healthcare. Sexual expression, online and off, has been and continues to be the canary in the coal mine of free speech.”

Within this decision, the court still upheld the injunction against the law’s requirement to display health warnings on their landing pages and advertisements. The 14-point font warning was meant to read: “Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses, and weakens brain function.”

Meanwhile, Pornhub has outright banned itself from the states with legislation regarding age verification.

-Washington Examiner


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