Nearly one-third of U.S. states now require age verification for porn sites

pornography age verification Credit: Shutterstock

After two years of efforts by child safety advocates around the country, nearly one-third of all U.S. states have passed legislation to protect children from explicit sexual content online. 

A total of 16 U.S. states have passed and/or will soon enact laws that order porn websites to verify that their users are over 18 years of age. 

AlabamaArkansasFloridaGeorgiaIdahoIndianaKansasLouisianaMississippiMontanaNebraskaNorth CarolinaOklahomaTexasUtah, and Virginia have all enacted statutes to enforce age verification for porn laws. 

Several other states, including ArizonaOklahoma, and Alaska, have considered or are considering similar legislation. 

The porn industry has pushed back against the regulations. Pornhub, one of the world’s most-visited pornography websites, has in some cases responded to the laws by disabling access to its website in those states.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a pornography trade association, has asked courts to strike down laws requiring porn sites to confirm users are over 18 years old. The Supreme Court earlier this month struck down a plea from FSC asking for an injunction against Texas’ law. 

The porn group asked a U.S. district court last week to strike down Montana’s law, with the group claiming it is “fully committed to fighting these attacks on free speech.”

‘I would consider it a success’

Louisiana State Rep. Laurie Schlegel told CNA that her state helped lead the current ongoing effort to require age verification for porn. Louisiana was the first state in the country to require age verification for porn websites. 

Schlegel was the chief sponsor of that legislation. “I would consider it a success,” she said, “because after I passed it in 2022 and it became enacted in January 2023, many states followed our lead and passed age verification in their states.”  

In addition to the numerous states that have already enacted their own laws, there are “many more [with] pending legislation,” Schlegel said.

“The porn industry is fighting against the age-verification laws,” she said, citing the lawsuits in Texas and Montana. The Free Speech Coalition also sued Louisiana over its law, although a judge ultimately tossed that suit out.

“I will continue to pass legislation around protecting kids online,” Schlegel said. “Each year since being elected I have passed laws to address child online safety.”

She pointed to a law she spearheaded, which was recently signed by Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, ordering that “no interactive computer service shall enter into a contract, including the creation of an online account, with a minor without obtaining the consent of the legal representative of the minor.”

Texas state Rep. Matt Shaheen, who sponsored that state’s age verification law, told CNA he was “very pleased with the results” of the measure. 

“Several porn sites now block access to their sites rather than follow the law,” he said. “I’m also extremely pleased the bill has been upheld by the Supreme Court.” 

“A coalition of porn distributors unsuccessfully sued to block the requirement that porn sites perform age verification and now Texas children are safer from their filth,” he said. “I will continue to fight to protect children from being sexualized.”

More in US

Mike Stabile, a spokesman for FSC, told CNA that the organization supports efforts to keep kids from accessing sexual content online.

“At the end of the day, we don’t oppose efforts to keep kids from accessing adult content,” he said. “We don’t want kids on our sites any more than their parents do.”

But these laws do very little to keep kids from accessing adult content, he argued, citing overseas websites that might not follow U.S. law as well as the presence of adult content on social media websites. 

Most users won’t comply with age-verification rules, he said, meaning porn sites that do comply with the laws see their traffic drop by upwards of 90% or more. 

“We know our industry and we know the internet, and we tried to explain to legislators why this wouldn’t work,” Stabile said. “We think it’s an example of a law that sounds very good, that sounds common sense, but otherwise doesn’t have much effect other than punishing sites that comply.”

If the goal is to push the adult industry underground, these laws are effective, Stabile said. But they’re a “failure” at protecting kids, he claimed.

Device-level protocols — such as parental locks and controls on computers and mobile devices — are more effective at keeping kids from accessing unsafe material, Stabile argued.

(Story continues below)

Porn websites rank consistently among the most-visited sites in the world. Church leaders have been warning about the dangers of pornography for years. 

In 2022 Pope Francis called pornography “a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women,” arguing that it “is not only a matter of protecting children — an urgent task of the authorities and all of us — but also of declaring pornography a threat to public health.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, has called pornography “a grave offense against God and his gifts to men and women” that offers “a means of selfish, lustful gratification” and “attacks sexual desire and the conjugal act itself.”

In 2020, Catholic anti-porn advocates launched a new online discussion and prayer platform called SOS Porn Deliverance, which offers “the opportunity for those affected by [porn addiction] to chat confidentially with an e-missionary trained in this mission.”

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.