Adult entertainers suit against Utah’s porn age verification law tossed

A lawsuit against the state of Utah that sought to challenge a law requiring porn websites to verify the age of their users was tossed out on Tuesday by a district court judge.

Brought on by a coalition of adult entertainers and digital privacy advocates, the suit argued that the law unfairly discriminates against the free speech of porn viewers and is therefore unconstitutional.

Passed in March and put into effect in May, the law requires residents to submit to third-party facial recognition technology and upload a government-issued identification in order to enter porn websites. Numerous porn sites instead opted to block all IP addresses from Utah in response to the law.

In the dismissal, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart did not address any of the group’s arguments alleging discrimination, privacy concerns, and First Amendment ramifications. Instead, Stewart stated that Utah couldn’t be sued due to how the law calls for age verification to be enforced.

“The law doesn’t direct the state to pursue or prosecute adult websites and instead gives Utah residents the power to sue them and collect damages if they don’t take precautions to verify their users’ ages,” the AP notes.

Alison Boden, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, which initiated the lawsuit on behalf of adult entertainers, responded to the judge’s decision by accusing the state of “outsourcing censorship to citizens.”

“States are attempting to do an end run around the First Amendment by outsourcing censorship to citizens,” Boden said. “It’s a new mechanism, but a deeply flawed one. Government attempts to chill speech, no matter the method, are prohibited by the Constitution and decades of legal precedent.”

Boden, whose group is also challenging a similar law in Louisiana, vowed to appeal the decision.

Aside from the privacy concerns, experts have called into question the effectiveness of the law. Not only is porn widely available on many social media outlets, tools such as VPNs can easily be used by Utah residents to fool porn sites into believing they are in a different location.

In fact, Google searches for “VPN” skyrocketed in Utah after Pornhub’s decision to block users from the state in protest of the new law.