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Some porn sites begin complying with Utah law requiring a warning label

Some porn sites begin complying with Utah law requiring a warning label
Posted at 1:43 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 13:47:16-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Some pornographic websites are beginning to comply with a new Utah law requiring that warning labels be attached to adult-oriented materials.

At least three major porn sites — Pornhub, XTube and RedTube — have begun attaching an opt-in notification for visitors from Utah, which says that the state believes pornographic materials can be harmful if viewed by minors.

"It shows for a lot of businesses, they're more concerned about their pocketbook than they are about being prosecuted," said Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, who sponsored the bill earlier this year.

Brammer's bill got national attention, and he faced pushback and threats of lawsuits from the adult entertainment industry when it debuted earlier this year. XHamster, another adult website, even trolled the bill by posting a parody warning on its site for Utah viewers to see.

Brammer watered down the original bill, and it passed the legislature. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, allowed it to go into law without his signature.

The law allows people to bring a private civil action in court against a site for displaying "obscene" materials, but it would require someone to go to court and have something declared "obscene."

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A trade group representing the porn industry said it advises websites not to comply with the new law, believing it is still unconstitutional.

"No matter the message, the First Amendment restricts the government's ability to compel speech. Individual companies may choose to comply because it's easier than facing lawsuits or fines. We've never advised our members to comply, and don't believe this is being done in any widespread manner, but respect that a business may make decisions that limit potential liability," Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, said in an email. "As with similar, previous legislation in Utah, we'll eventually see the law challenged and overturned, and at no small expense to the Utah taxpayer. That's unfortunate, because that money and energy could be spent educating people about actually effective methods of protection, like parental filters."

An email sent to Pornhub requesting comment on why it began posting warning labels was not immediately returned.

While no websites have challenged the law in court, Brammer believes it will hold up.

"So far, it's been a lot of talk. I don't think that they will, if they do bring a legal challenge, I don't think they'll be able to succeed on that," Brammer said. "We have a difference of opinion on that. They haven't felt confident enough yet to bring a legal challenge and most of the companies, rather than make the challenge and spend the money on that, they're complying."

Brammer said he ultimately would like to expand the legislation to allow for people to sue an adult website, even if they don't know who owns it.

But he said he was not planning to bring that forward in the 2021 legislative session that begins in January. Other states have expressed interest in running similar legislation, he said.

Brammer said the warning label law has already alerted parents when their child was re-directed to an adult site, and it's educated them about parental filters.

He insisted his bill did not block adults from viewing pornography, just minors.

"If that's where they want to go, they're going to get there. And I'm not trying to stop that," he said. "But I'm giving them a chance if that's not where they want to go."

This story was originally published by Ben Winslow on KSTU in Salt Lake City.