‘Is Pornhub down?’ — Yes, if you live in Virginia

“Is anyone else’s Pornhub not working?”

Virginia State Sen. L. Louise Lucas tweeted the question on Friday afternoon, just hours before an age verification law intended to protect children from online pornography was set to take effect.

“The executive branch had an obligation to create a system for age verification,” Lucas said, blasting Gov. Glenn Youngkin for policies that, “relied on these websites with porn to do the verification process. This is a massive security risk.”

Pornhub announced that it made the difficult decision to block access for users in Mississippi and Virginia early Friday in response to age verification bills in the states.

“When a similar law was enacted in Louisiana in January, Pornhub was one of the few sites to comply. Since then, our traffic in Louisiana dropped approximately 80 percent,” the site said. “These people did not stop looking for porn. They just migrated to other corners of the internet that don’t ask users to verify age, that don’t follow the law, that don’t take user safety seriously, and that often don’t even moderate content.”

The adult entertainment company also said the decision complies with new laws it deemed “ineffective” and risky for users’ privacy and children’s safety.

“The only solution that makes the internet safer, preserves user privacy and stands to prevent children from accessing adult content is performing age verification at the source: on the device,” Pornhub said. “Many devices already offer free and easy-to-use parental control features that can prevent children from accessing adult content without risking the disclosure of sensitive user data.”

New data suggests users across the commonwealth may already be looking for workarounds to this new law and Pornhub’s response.

Virginia has since seen an increase in Google searches for VPNs — virtual private networks that allow users to get around blocked sites from their desktops and cell phones, as previously reported by the Washingtonian.

The bipartisan age verification bill goes into effect on July 1 and would require websites where at least 33.3% of the content is “material harmful to minors” to provide government-issued IDs, biometric scans or submit to age verification software.

When similar law was put in place in Utah in May, PornHub blocked all users in the state from accessing content there as well. At the time, Virginia was warned that it could lose access to adult sites after the bill was signed into law.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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