Fifth Circuit Court Upholds Texas Age-Verification Law Restricting Porn Site Access

Evan Poellinger | March 12, 2024
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The Fifth Circuit Court of appeals has ruled 2-1 in favor of a Texas law requiring pornography websites to use age verification on their websites. The law, which was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last June, and originally scheduled to take effect in December, 2023, mandates such websites “use reasonable age verification methods” in order to “verify that an individual attempting to access the material is 18 years of age or older.”

Companies that fail to comply with the law would face $10,000 penalties per day of non-compliance, $10,000 per day further for retaining identifying information, and $250,000 if a minor views pornographic content without verification.

The Free Speech Coalition, an organization affiliated with the pornography industry, led a lawsuit against the law, which originally led to it being blocked by U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who argued that there were other means of preventing children from viewing online pornography and expressed concern that it would result in a “chilling” of adults’ free speech rights.

Judge Ezra’s order was subsequently put on hold by the Fifth Circuit Court while the appeal was adjudicated. Ultimately, the court resolved the issue with the decision issued on March 7. In the majority opinion, Judge Jerry Smith wrote that requiring age verification on adult websites was no different than requiring age verification to purchase pornographic magazines, adding that to suggest otherwise “"implies that the invention of the Internet somehow reduced the scope of the state's ability to protect children.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), meanwhile, has filed suit against Aylo Global Entertainment, the parent company of several pornographic websites.

The push by the adult industry to keep pornography accessible to children seems to parallel efforts to keep pornographic reading materials available to children in the public school system.

The books recommended by the National Education Association (NEA) for their 2023 summer reading list included the infamous “Gender Queer,” known for graphic depictions of oral sex and masturbation. When Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (R) read passages from “Gender Queer,” and another sexually-explicit book available in public school libraries, during a hearing on September 12, 2023, his verbatim reading was called “disturbing” by Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, who nonetheless advocated that such books should not be prohibited outright from public and school libraries, and that discretion should be left to librarians to determine acceptability of particular books and to parents to screen their children’s selections.

If there is one commonality that the American left and the pornography industry appear to share, it is their determination to ensure that American children continue to be exposed to and affected by pornographic media.

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