Kentucky's Pornhub ban: a digital crossroads of privacy, protection, and personal freedom

Have you ever wondered what would happen if access to adult content websites like Pornhub was suddenly restricted in your state?

Starting July 10, 2024, this scenario will become a reality for residents of Kentucky due to a new law requiring Government-Issued ID for age verification to access porn online.

As Pornhub prepares to exit yet another US state, these latest developments have sparked a heated debate about privacy, protecting children online, and the role of government in regulating internet access.

Privacy and security: a digital tightrope

Kentucky's legislation mandates adult websites to verify users' ages before granting access to their content.

The measure hopes to help concerns by lawmakers who have called pornography a "public health crisis" when it comes to minors being exposed to adult material.

However, alarm bells rang when it emerged that users must upload an official identification document, like a driver's license, to prove their age.

A data breach of these access requests could eclipse the infamous Ashley Madison leak nearly a decade ago.

Critics also argue that requiring users to submit sensitive personal information to multiple websites normalizes the disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) across the Internet, increasing the risk of identity theft and data breaches. These concerns are not unfounded.

You can't blame Kentuckians for being wary of these changes when, within the past two years, a facial recognition error wrongfully caused the arrest of an innocent man in Louisiana, the Hive ransomware group hacked into a Louisiana hospital, affecting 270,000 patients and another cyber-attack exposed personal information belonging to every driver's license in that state.

Pornhub's parent company, Aylo, once again made the move to cease operations in Kentucky rather than comply with the new law, citing significant privacy and security concerns.

This decision mirrors Aylo's actions in other states with similar laws, including Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Montana, Utah, and Virginia.

The decision follows a significant traffic drop in Louisiana, where the law led to an 80% decrease in visitors.

This shift is not due to reduced interest in adult content but rather users migrating to less regulated and potentially more dangerous sites.

The move could have far-reaching economic ramifications since it will cream-skim professional adult content providers' profitability and viability while driving traffic toward the Internet's darker corners.

Pornhub says it supports the principle of age verification, but the current approach presents unacceptable risks to the privacy and security of users' data.

The stance underlines that fragile balance between safeguarding minors and user privacy—issues legislators and tech companies will struggle with throughout life in an increasingly AI-driven world.

The role of VPNs and technological workarounds

With Pornhub set to be banned in Kentucky, many users have started turning to VPNs as a workaround.

Since VPNs hide a user's location, giving the impression that the web one is trying to access is from another region with no restriction to such access, this becomes an obvious workaround.

But it also creates an enormous weakness in legislation—any tech-savvy person will get around this measure effortlessly, even those below the age threshold.

Another question related to the growing reliance on VPNs is how long it will take for authorities to pursue VPN providers to enforce the law more effectively.

This could evolve into a game of cat-and-mouse between users who want to retain their privacy and governments who want to introduce regulations about using VPNs to bypass content restrictions.

Pornhub ban map
By Cybernews

State vs. parental responsibility

Another critical issue in the debate is whether it becomes the state's duty to monitor and control children's access to online content or whether it is a parental responsibility.

Opponents say that these kinds of laws reflect an overreach of the government's powers into strictly private affairs, tending toward a more totalitarian approach clothed in the rhetoric of child protection.

Critics argue that such laws represent an overreach of government power into private matters, shifting towards a more authoritarian approach under the guise of child protection.

Privacy advocates also highlight the contradiction in states that often champion personal liberty and freedom while simultaneously imposing restrictive laws. This inconsistency suggests a form of authoritarianism, raising questions about the balance between protecting minors and preserving individual rights.

Again, advocates of the new legislation contend that since it is on the Internet, more safeguards must be implemented to protect children.

Depending upon which side of the argument one takes, this Kentucky law shares elements with other laws being passed around the country, reflecting at large the concerns about Internet regulation, privacy, and protection for minors balanced against protecting the freedoms of adults.

The new law will surely raise many legal arguments because groups championing digital rights and privacy will contest it on the grounds of the Constitution.

Under the First Amendment, such requirements violate an adult's right to access this content. Therefore, according to legal experts, First Amendment challenges are likely against the law.

It makes the law somewhat questionable regarding access to constitutionally protected content by requiring that adults overcome some considerable hurdles—providing a government-issued ID.

Some have attacked it as overly restrictive, saying it infringes upon the free speech rights of adults.

Many have also criticized the double standards in political discourse: leaders who advocate for restrictive laws such as these engage in or disregard immoral activities.

This duplicity strips their arguments and policies of credibility, leading to a more generalized distrust of the motives behind such legislation.

Future of Internet privacy and freedom

Implementing this new law in Kentucky could set a precedent for further control and monitoring of internet activity, leading to a more fragmented and less free internet.

This raises serious ethical and practical concerns regarding where online privacy and freedom are headed and whether more states will want to follow through.

As Kentucky gears up to no longer have access to Pornhub due to new age verification laws, the state finds itself in the eye of a hot storm about privacy, security, and how far government entities will now go in locking down online content.

The law, while aimed at protecting minors, has sparked significant concerns about personal freedom, data security, and the potential for increased government overreach.

In an increasingly polarized world, two camps are caught in binary thinking, with some wholeheartedly believing that the new law is a necessary step toward protecting minors and the other half convinced it's the beginning of an overreach of government power. The best way of protecting kids from porn is probably somewhere in the middle.

Common sense is more important than ever in finding a better way forward that does not sacrifice a child's innocence or our freedoms.

Our choices will set the direction of this digital landscape for generations to come, and these challenges require careful consideration and foresight.