Updated May 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Porn industry group sues over Utah's age verification law

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging Utah's new age verification law.

How it works: The state law, which took effect Wednesday, requires adult websites to verify the age of their users in order to access their platforms.

Catch up quick: The lawsuit comes two days after Pornhub, one of the world's most-visited sites, disabled access to its web page across the state in protest of the policy.

Of note: Erotica author D.S. Dawson, an anonymous attorney and multiple companies that host adult content websites, are also listed as plaintiffs in Wednesday's suit.

Details: The lawsuit argues Utah's new law violates free speech rights and breaches the privacy of individuals accessing pornographic content.

  • It also claims the law could lead to children turning to the dark web "to obtain material far more harmful than what is available from popular adult websites."

Between the lines: The new law mandates that internet users can prove their ages through a "digitized identification card" or third-party age-verification service.

Yes, but: In a letter posted this week, Alison Boden, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, said unlike Louisiana, which enacted a similar age verification law earlier this year, Utah "does not have a system for verifying a Mobile Driver's License online."

What they're saying: "We are very, very much in support of device-based age verification and are willing to work with any partners to accomplish it and implement it on every one of our platforms," Solomon Friedman, a founding investor at Ethical Capital Partners, the private-equity firm that owns Pornhub's parent company MindGeek, told Axios Salt Lake City.

  • "All that is required is a legislative and industry will," he said.

State Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), the bill’s sponsor, told Axios: "None of us intended to block any adults from viewing pornography."

  • He added during the phone interview that it was Pornhub's decision to prohibit access to their platform in Utah to put pressure on lawmakers and likened it to a publicity stunt.
  • Weiler said he believes the law will survive legal scrutiny and noted that device-based age verification "could be the path forward" to resolve the issue.
  • A spokesperson for the Utah governor's office declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from state Sen. Todd Weiler.

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