Supreme Court won't block Texas law aimed at preventing children from accessing pornography

 May 1, 2024

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to block a provision of a Texas law that requires pornography website users to give personal information to verify their identities so that children have a harder time accessing the sites' contents.

No reason for the refusal or dissent from the decision was noted.

The Free Speech Coalition and a number of companies argued that the law violates people's free speech rights and posited that children's safety was not a good enough reason to require the personal information.

“Specifically, the act requires adults to comply with intrusive age verification measures that mandate the submission of personally identifying information over the internet in order to access websites containing sensitive and intimate content,” the challengers wrote in court documents.

Impact on adults

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) wrote in response that the state law “simply requires the pornography industry that makes billions of dollars from peddling smut to take commercially reasonable steps to ensure that those who access the material are adults.”

At issue is the reality that the restrictions don't just restrict childrens' access to the sites, but they also impact adults.

A federal judge initially ruled against the law on those grounds, but the appeals court ruled for the state and would not put the decision on hold pending Supreme Court review.

The petition was an emergency one requested because the law has now gone into effect, so it's not the final word on the subject.

The Supreme Court will still hear the full appeal later this year.

The ramifications--for now

Meanwhile, several porn sites including PornHub have denied access to all Texas residents because of the restrictions.

"We look forward to continuing this challenge, and others like it, in the federal courts," the Free Speech Coalition commented. "The ruling by the Fifth Circuit remains in direct opposition to decades of Supreme Court precedent, and we remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant our petition for certiorari and reaffirm its lengthy line of cases applying strict scrutiny to content-based restrictions on speech like those in the Texas statute we've challenged. We will continue to fight for the right to access the internet without intrusive government oversight."

For its part, Texas has sued PornHub and other sites for failing to comply with the law.

Similar age verification laws have passed in Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.

The Texas law penalizes offenders up to $10,000 per violation, and up to $250,000 violation if the violator is a minor.

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Thomas Jefferson
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