A federal judge has blocked a Texas law that would have required pornography websites to, among other things, ask users to verify their ages.
The Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge David Ezra blocked the law in a ruling that was released on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.
The law at issue here is Texas House Bill (HB) 1181: "An act relating to the publication or distribution of sexual material harmful to minors on an Internet website; providing a civil penalty."
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) signed H.B. 1181 into law back in June. It was scheduled to go into effect on Friday.
According to The Hill, H.B. 1181 has two main requirements:
The law requires pornography sites to use age-verification measures to determine visitors to the sites are at least 18 years old. It also requires them to post warnings about the alleged harms pornography causes.
The law imposed a fine as a penalty. The fine would start off at a maximum of $10,000 per violation and go up to as much as $250,000 per violation.
H.B. 1181 was challenged in early August 2023.
The Associated Press reports:
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 4 by the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, and a person identified as Jane Doe and described as an adult entertainer on various adult sites, including Pornhub.
The challengers asked the court to temporarily stop the law from taking effect, while litigation over its legality continues. Ezra has now granted this request.
In the ruling, Ezra found that Texas H.B. 1181 violates the Constitutional right to free speech. Ezra also found that the law is both overbroad and vague.
Ezra, in particular, raised privacy concerns. The judge wrote:
People will be particularly concerned about accessing controversial speech when the state government can log and track that access. By verifying information through government identification, the law will allow the government to peer into the most intimate and personal aspects of people’s lives.
Ezra also took issue with the warning required by the law, writing, "The disclosures state scientific findings as a matter of fact, when in reality, they range from heavily contested to unsupported by the evidence."
Ezra did concede that Texas has a legitimate interest here - in protecting children from pornography. But, the judge said that there are other ways to go about addressing this interest.
Texas has already indicated that it will appeal Ezra's ruling.