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VPN searches up in Utah after Pornhub blocks US state

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Searches for internet workarounds skyrocketed in the western US state of Utah on Wednesday after adult streaming powerhouse Pornhub blocked access there over a new age verification law.

MindGeek, the Luxembourg-based company that owns Pornhub, pulled the plug on Tuesday in protest of a Utah law that requires visitors to the site to prove their age with government-issued ID.

Google data showed that searches for VPN access spiked in the state, becoming the most popular search item in Utah in the hours after the law came into effect.

In a video defending Pornhub’s decision, adult film actress Cherie DeVille said that “giving your ID card every time you want to visit an adult platform is not the most effective solution for protecting our users.”

“In fact,” she added, it “will put children and your privacy at risk.”

Pornhub is instead promoting a “device-based verification,” where users could guarantee their age through their smartphone, computer or tablet.

US states are increasingly going out on their own to regulate online activity, with national lawmaking all but blocked in a bitterly divided Washington.

Utah in 2016 called pornography a public health crisis and in February the verification law was introduced to give porn the same constraints as the purchase of alcohol or cigarettes.

Another Utah law passed in March requires children to obtain parental consent to use social media platforms, including TikTok and Instagram.

The market leader in internet porn has faced a growing backlash since The New York Times in December 2020 published an article in which Pornhub was accused of hosting illegal content online, including child pornography and rape videos.

That led lawmakers in Canada, where MindGeek has a headquarters, to grill executives about alleged abuses, while Mastercard and Visa suspended payments on Pornhub. Its top executives resigned in June 2022.

Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners in March announced its purchase of beleaguered MindGeek.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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