Watching porn now requires a legal, government ID in Louisiana

A photo shows a smartphone being held with the "PornHub" logo on a white background

Websites that contain at least one-third porn will now require a legal ID to prove users are over 18 years old, a new Louisiana law states.

The bill, which requires users to show a driving licence or official state ID card, was introduced last year, but came into effect on Sunday (1 January). 

The new law, however, does not actually make it illegal for children to access porn, but allows people to sue sites that do not enforce age checks, BBC News reported.

Republican Laurie Schlegel, who introduced the bill, said she was inspired to push the law through by singer Billie Eilish, who spoke out about how watching porn at a young age “destroyed my brain”

Pornhub has now placed an age verification warning on its website for users in Louisiana, which states it does not “collect data” or allow anyone to “trace online activity” through its age checking process.

“Louisiana law now requires us to put in place a process for verifying the age of users who connect to our site from Louisiana,” the website reads. 

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Pornhub now requires Louisiana users to prove their age (Pornhub)

Some users, however, have said the new age verification law amounts to “surveillance”, while sex workers and adult performers have expressed concerns that the law may affect their jobs by forcing people to move away from verified websites like Pornhub to less legitimate websites. 

Olivia Snow, a sex worker and research fellow at UCLA’s Centre for Critical Internet Inquiry, told TechCrunch that the law could increase the use of “black market” porn websites.

“It’s really just further marginalising sex workers, which I think is going to be the primary effect,” Snow said. 

“I imagine this means that there will be an increased black market of premium content that’s non-consensually disseminated.”

Schlegel asserted, however, that the bill was “about protecting children, not limiting adults.”

“The technology today allows us to not only protect children from the dangers of online pornography, but also protect the privacy of those adults who want to view this material,” she added.

An equivalent bill in the UK, the Online Safety Bill, would require commercial porn sites like OnlyFans to check if users are over 18.

The bill, which has been criticised over the possibility of data breaches if legal ID details are leaked, returned to parliament in December 2022 after months of delay.

The Guardian reported that if the bill is not passed by April 2023, it would be dropped entirely, and would need to be started again from scratch. 

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