(CNN) — Searches for virtual private networking (VPN) software briefly spiked in Texas this week after Pornhub suspended service in the state over a law forcing adult websites to verify the age or identities of their users.

The four-fold rise in Google searches for tools that can circumvent the state-level blocking suggests the law may already be having unintended side effects, days after a federal appeals court upheld the legislation and said it could remain in effect.

Visitors with Texas IP addresses who visit Pornhub’s website are now presented with a full-page message calling the Texas law “ineffective, haphazard, and dangerous.”

“Until the real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in Texas,” the message reads. “In doing so, we are complying with the law, as we always do, but hope that governments around the world will implement laws that actually protect the safety and security of users.”

Search interest in VPNs began disproportionately rising in Texas Thursday compared to the rest of the country, according to a CNN analysis of Google Trends data — quadrupling in the hours following Pornhub’s announcement before retreating slightly by early Friday morning.

While Google Trends merely shows correlations between events and is only useful as a gauge of relative search interest for a given snapshot of time, the immediacy of the search spike, coupled with its concentration from within Texas, highlights the potential connection between the law and Pornhub’s users.

A link “seems pretty likely,” said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group.

“The apparent spike in VPN searches in Texas shows that these types of age verification laws aren’t just unconstitutional, they’re also silly and ineffective,” Greer said. “Just like millions of people in countries like China, Russia and Turkey evade their government’s draconian online censorship regimes using simple tools like VPNs, now we see Texans doing the same to get around their own state government’s invasive rules.”

Pornhub has pulled out of multiple states in response to a wave of age verification laws sweeping the country, including in Montana, Utah, Virginia and others. It also highlights the running debate in statehouses nationwide about how and whether governments can require websites to perform age verification.

The law in question in Texas is known as HB 1181. It requires adult websites to implement “reasonable age verification” methods to ensure that pornography is not being distributed to minors. Those methods include either requiring users to submit “proof of identity” such as a government-issued ID to the adult website or to a third-party contractor, or by submitting other personal data to a third-party contractor, such as biometric information, that enables the vendor to check a user’s age.

Courts rule on porn sites

Last summer, a US district judge temporarily blocked the law, finding that it was overly broad, likely violated the First Amendment and threatened marginalized communities.

“It runs the risk that the state can monitor when an adult views sexually explicit materials and what kind of websites they visit,” wrote Judge David Alan Ezra in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas. “Given Texas’s ongoing criminalization of homosexual intercourse, it is apparent that people who wish to view homosexual material will be profoundly chilled from doing so if they must first affirmatively identify themselves to the state.”

Later, however, in response to an emergency appeal by Texas officials, the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Ezra with an order that allowed the law to take effect.

And last week, a three-judge panel of the same appeals court found that Ezra applied too tough a standard in reviewing the law.

The 5th Circuit court’s latest decision formally lifts the injunction against the Texas law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton posted on X Thursday celebrating Pornhub’s decision to withdraw from the state.

“Sites like PornHub are on the run,” he wrote, adding: “In Texas, companies cannot get away with showing porn to children. If they don’t want to comply, good riddance.”

Pornhub said in a blog post that it supports age verification but that forcing individual websites and third-party providers to handle users’ most sensitive personal information creates unreasonable privacy and security risks. Pornhub has proposed, and reiterated on Thursday, that age verification checks should be performed exclusively on a user’s device, without requiring them to send data over the internet to third parties.

(Copyright (c) 2024 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox