The impact of Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas's laws on Pornhub users

In a significant development impacting internet governance and digital rights, states like Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas are preparing to pass legislation requiring adult websites to verify that users are over 18 years old.

This move, mirroring efforts in other states, seeks to protect minors from the potential harms of pornography but raises substantial debates around privacy, freedom, and the practicality of enforcing such measures.

Idaho and Kansas will implement the measures on June 28th, and Nebraska will do the same on July 17th. As these states join the ranks of many jurisdictions in enforcing such rules, the debate about online safety, privacy, and freedom of expression reaches an all-time high.

Community standards go digital

Although the specifics of the age verification scheme vary from state to state, they all focus on protecting minors from pornographic or other similarly unsuitable material on the web. This comes amidst a social movement to use the internet to govern community and moral standards.

Pornhub ban map
By Cybernews

Digital footprints and VPNs: age verification laws are not straightforward

Although everybody agrees that preventing kids from harmful materials is a good idea, some prominent organizations seem unhappy with the new laws.

In particular, the Free Speech Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have expressed strong reservations about the potential to violate privacy and constitutionality, respectively.

A prominent objection is that online age verification has much more potential for intrusion than offline checking of IDs. Critics believe that asking users to submit government-issued identification or other personal information to access websites comes with significant risks to individual privacy.

Critics say these age verification laws set a dangerous precedent: adults must make digital footprints of their online behavior that could be hacked or misappropriated. Many also question the effectiveness of such measures, as anyone tech-savvy, including those still considered minors, can quickly circumvent the prohibition through VPNs or similar tools.

We must address the fact that kids are increasingly adept at circumventing online rules, such as signing up to Facebook when they are under 13 or borrowing their parents' ID and cards to buy Fortnite DLC.

On the other hand, advocates have justified the new laws as the proper measures to put in place to protect children from the risks inherent in early exposure to pornography. The argument is that if society can safeguard children against alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, the same should apply to the digital world.

Nebraska State Senator Julie Slama, who sponsored the bill, stated, "This is about protecting our kids. We are responsible for ensuring the online world is a safe place for children, and this law is one more way to do that."

The two faces of Pornhub: advocating privacy as they stand accused of data misuse

Pornhub has come out as one of the loudest voices against the new laws around age verification, which most US states are adopting.

The adult video-streaming giant said the law places tremendous privacy and effectiveness risks. Although motivated by good intentions, the company said the laws create huge risks to users' privacy, as people will have to repeatedly enter their personal identification information across different websites.

Pornhub further argues it only heightens the chances of data breaches and identity theft. More so, they say these measures are not helpful because some tech-savvy users, with some as young as teens, can easily bypass them using VPNs or other tools.

As a result, Pornhub has decided to block access to their site in states implementing these laws, including Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Virginia, Montana, North Carolina, Mississippi, and soon Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, and Nebraska.

However, the company advocates for a device-based age verification solution as a more privacy-conscious and effective way to protect minors while respecting the privacy rights of adult users.

While Pornhub purports to be a user privacy advocate on the scale of age verification law, it turns out the parent company is a mess involving the violation of user data and data ethics issues. Indeed, the latest complaint filed in Italy against Pornhub is another example of the contradictory nature of the practices on this platform.

According to the accusations, Pornhub collected the sexual preferences of users and shared them with unknown third parties.

This may be a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation from the European Union, as well as contrary to Pornhub's stated commitment to user privacy by this "accusation of 'unlawful profiling' and non-consensual data processing."

The claim comes down to the fact that the platform sets sexual preferences for users without their consent or knowledge, with the recommendation system lending a big hand to support its data ethics or users' choices.

If true, these allegations will erode a great deal of Pornhub's credibility as a champion for user privacy and safety in the ongoing debate over age verification laws.

There is also a big question of asking adults to upload their ID to view pornographic content, but why can anyone upload content from their phone with just an email address and no verification process? This is especially concerning with the rise in deep fake and revenge porn.

These examples provide a brutal reminder that, although the company may disparage specific approaches to regulation, its practices may leave much to be desired under ethical and legal standards for data protection.

Age-verification in America: the balance between security and freedom

When Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas are in a hurry to implement age-verification laws, the reader realizes that this is a battleground far from settled. The accelerating debate comprises many things—from child protection and public morality to individual rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The intentions behind supporting the idea are all right with the protection of minors from harmful content, but the methods and their broader implications are still the bone of contention. Until more states weigh similar legislation and legal challenges churn their way through the courts, this running debate will undoubtedly shape the future of age verification laws.

With the news that Elon Musk will now allow adult content on X, how long until multiple websites require you to hand over your government-issued ID to view content?

It's difficult to strike the right balance between protecting minors and preserving adult freedoms in the digital age. Only through continuous dialogue between lawmakers, technologists, civil liberty interests, and the public will solutions most appropriately addressing these problems be developed. This approach is necessary for any successful implementation of age verification laws.

The debate will unveil how these laws shape the landscape of US Internet use and digital rights. This emerging issue demands continued attention and discussion to ensure our values and rights are reflected in digital landscape changes. While this proceeds before our eyes, the central question is: How can we ensure that our approaches toward protecting the vulnerable do not lay down more vulnerabilities across a broader spectrum of our digital world?