US Court Declares Age Verification on Pornography Websites Unconstitutional
A federal court has struck down a Texas law requiring age verification on pornography websites, ruling in favor of the Free Speech coalition. Judge David Ezra emphasized that the HB 1181 law could pose numerous issues that curtail the rights of internet users and adult content creators, as reported by The Verge.
"The restrictions are problematic from a constitutional standpoint, as they hinder adults' access to legal, sexually explicit materials that go beyond the interests of protecting minors," stated Judge Ezra in his ruling.
David Ezra noted that the HB 1181 law presents multiple problems that could restrict the rights of internet users and adult content creators, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
"People will be particularly concerned about access to controversial expressions when the state government can record and track this access. By verifying information through state identification, the law will enable the government to scrutinize the most intimate and personal aspects of people's lives. There is a risk that the state could monitor when an adult views explicit sexual materials and which websites they visit. Essentially, the law risks forcing individuals to disclose specific details of their sexuality to the state," the judge remarked.
As Ezra pointed out, the anti-sodomy law in Texas has not been repealed, making the provision of identification data for something like a gay pornography website especially risky. "Considering that the criminalization of homosexual relations continues in Texas, it is evident that people wishing to view homosexual materials will be heavily restrained if they must first confirm their identity to the state," the court's decision stated.
The HB 1181 law places restrictions on websites that consist of one-third pornography content. Ezra concludes that the law was crafted in a way that simultaneously overlooks key places where minors might access pornography (such as adult-oriented communities on Reddit) that do not meet the criteria of an overall "pornographic" site. Meanwhile, the law jeopardizes some legal resources for teenagers, such as websites providing sexual health information.
Ezra summarizes that the risks do not justify the use of stringent age verification when alternative options are available, such as parental content filters.