Louisianans who have visited Pornhub recently were surprised by a new requirement. Before they were allowed to stream sexually
Video - Explicit
They had to prove that they were 18 years old. It was because Louisiana lawmakers passed a law last year that required publishers of material online that could "harm minors" verify that users were 18 years old.
Louisiana is leading a national campaign to protect young people from harmful content. It does this by requiring certain types of content.
To bar or restrict minors from their platforms. People in other states will soon be required to use credentials like digitized driver's licenses to gain access to a variety of services including popular
Social media apps
At least two dozen state governments have proposed new restrictions in the last year that could affect not only children and teenagers' online experience. The proposed restrictions could change the online experience for millions of adults as well, bringing about a cultural shift towards a more age-gated, stricter internet. Parents who are worried that their children will be bombarded with sexualized images online or targeted by strangers may find relief in the new wave of bills. Civil liberties groups claim that some bills may make it harder for Americans to access online information, including minors who have constitutional rights to do so, and violate free speech principles. Utah and Arkansas have recently passed laws that require social apps like TikTok to verify users' ages before granting them accounts. Many sites ask for birth dates when registering for an account, but children can easily subvert this system by using a false birth year. The new state laws could lead to platforms implementing more stringent age verification systems that involve government IDs.
Four U.S. Senators introduced the "Protecting Kids from Online Violence" bill in late April.
The bill would force social networks to verify their users' ages and bar users younger than 13, as well as obtain parental consent from users aged 13-17. Laurie Schlegel is the Republican state legislator who pushed for the Louisiana law. She said that she was motivated to act after listening to a podcast where Billie Eilish, a singer and songwriter, told Howard Stern how watching online pornography as a kid "destroyed" her brain. She said that she thought the digital world required the same adult zones as exist in the real world where customers are asked to present a government-issued ID before buying alcohol. She cited Louisiana as an example where online gambling services and alcohol delivery companies were required to verify the age of patrons through documents such as driver's licenses. Schlegel stated that "we have agreed, as a society, not to allow a 15-year old to go to a club or bar." "The same protections must be put in place online, so you can know that a 10-year old isn't looking at pornography." Schlegel said that her bill on age verification was drafted with the possibility of free speech challenges at heart. She said that in order to avoid blanketing health platforms with the Louisiana measure, it only covers sexually explicit websites that meet a legal test for "material damaging to minors." Civil liberties experts, however, said that some proposed restrictions on social media and harmful material could result in age verification barriers for Americans who want to access online information. Experts say that if the rules are not changed, they will radically change the internet. They could turn the web into a patchwork fiefdom or force popular platforms to limit their content to avoid being triggered by the rules. Nadine Strossen is a former president of the American Civil Liberties Union. She said that it could stifle free speech for both minors and adults. Civil liberties organizations said they are considering litigation in order to stop certain new laws. In the past, attempts to restrict internet access by age have been challenged on constitutional grounds. In 1997, Supreme Court struck down federal regulations that would have made knowingly sending or displaying "obscene" or "indecent", material to those younger than 18 illegal. The court said the rules restricted free speech. Age-verification software wasn't widely available on the internet at that time. This is no longer true. Louisiana became a leader in the country on this issue, partly because of its ready-made tech: a mobile app approved by the state called "LA Wallet" that allows residents make digital scans from their Louisiana drivers licenses. LA Wallet verifies a user’s ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles of Louisiana. Louisianans can use the app to prove their age in a bar, for example, just as they would with a physical driver's license. Envoc, Louisiana's software company that created the app, says the number of users has more than tripled since the age verification law for online pornography went into effect in January. When Louisiana users go to a website like Pornhub, they are asked to enter a code that will verify their age through LA Wallet. The app checks the user's ages and informs the porn website if they are an adult.
Calvin Fabre is the president of Envoc. He said that LA Wallet doesn't send any personal information to porn websites, nor does the wallet retain information on sites requested by its users.
Since Louisiana passed the law, at least 12 other states have also introduced bills that require age verification for online porn. Utah is one of them, and it has a program for digital licenses. Many states are testing mobile licenses as part of a pilot program. Nevertheless, there are still loopholes. Louisianans can use software that masks their location to appear as if they are in another state. Solomon Friedman, partner at Ethical Captial Partners, a firm that acquired MindGeek (the company behind adult websites like Pornhub), said many sexually explicit websites have yet to implement age verification systems for Louisiana users.
Friedman stated that "Pornhub fully complies with the law," despite the fact that many other sites do not comply with it.
Schlegel introduced a bill recently to encourage compliance. The bill would allow the state impose specific monetary sanctions for pornography websites that fail to verify users' age. Some social media platforms have said that they are intensifying efforts to identify and remove users under the age of 18. Meta announced that it has begun using artificial intelligence to identify youths who falsely represent their age on Instagram or Facebook Dating. TikTok uses several methods to identify users who are underage. Last year, it said that they removed over 75 million accounts which appeared to be belonging to children younger than 13 years old. Schlegel, in Louisiana, is still pushing for more protections. She noted that the Louisiana civil code prohibits companies from signing contracts with minors unless they have parental consent. She proposed a bill in March to clarify that contracts for online services must be governed by the rules. In late April, the Louisiana House unanimously approved the bill. It now moves to the Senate. A measure of this kind could force sites like Reddit or Roblox to ask parents for permission before allowing Louisiana users under 18 to use them. Schlegel explained that her bill was intended to send a strong message to online platforms, saying: "You have to be more responsible with our children."