NC Lawmakers Open to Revisiting Age Verification Legislation

RALEIGH—North Carolina lawmakers are reconsidering recent age verification legislation targeting adult websites that entered into force on January 1, 2024. The legislation, House Bill 8, requires adult sites to verify users visiting from North Carolina IP addresses.

AVN previously reported that House Bill (HB) 8 was adopted by the North Carolina state legislature in 2023.

Initially, the bill had nothing to do with age verification requirements until Republican state Sen. Amy Galey amended HB 8, which was proposed by the initial sponsor, Rep. Jon Hardister.

HB 8 was originally proposed to require a computer science curriculum for local high schoolers.

Republicans control the North Carolina General Assembly with votes of 47-0 and 102-8 in favor of the bill. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill into law.

The News & Observer reports that Hardister is interested in speaking with industry members, namely Pornhub's parent company Aylo, who has geo-blocked the state. He expressed on the record that device-based verification is a potential compromise. 

Device-based verification is a method Aylo has advocated for since age-gating became a popular censorship tool in GOP states.

"More of these laws are coming, and the safety of our users is one of our biggest concerns," reads a post published on the Pornhub blog. "However, the best and most effective solution for protecting children and adults alike is to identify users at the source: by their device, or account on the device, and allow access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that identification. This means users would only get verified once, through their operating system, not on each age-restricted site.

"This dramatically reduces privacy risks and creates a very simple process for regulators to enforce," the blog post adds.

Mike Stabile, director of public affairs for the adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition, told the News & Observer that litigation is possible. The Free Speech Coalition has sued in Texas, Utah and Louisiana to block age verification lawsuits. The Texas case persists as it continues to be litigated at a federal district court in Austin and before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“HB 8 is a technologically flawed bill that does little to keep minors from accessing adult content,” Stabile told the outlet.

"Since HB 8 targets adult sites specifically, it paradoxically encourages the growth of adult content on social media, making it more likely that kids are going to stumble upon it unintentionally," he added.

Stabile also took time to criticize the anti-pornography movement, namely far-right astroturf groups like the American Principles Project, which claims partial responsibility for the success of age verification laws in certain Republican-controlled state legislatures.

The American Principles Project is characterized by the Human Rights Campaign as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.