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posted by janrinok on Thursday February 16 2023, @07:03PM   Printer-friendly

Opponents say laws preventing underage porn access are vague, pose privacy risks:

After decades of America fretting over minors potentially being overexposed to pornography online, several states are suddenly moving fast in 2023 to attempt to keep kids off porn sites by passing laws requiring age verification.

Last month, Louisiana became the first state to require an ID from residents to access pornography online. Since then, seven states have rushed to follow in Louisiana's footsteps. According to a tracker from Free Speech Coalition, Florida, Kansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia introduced similar laws, and laws in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia are seemingly closest to passing. If passed, some of these laws could be enforced promptly, while some bills in states like Florida and Mississippi specify that they wouldn't take effect until July.

But not every state agrees that rushing to require age verification is the best solution. Today, a South Dakota committee voted to defer voting on its age verification bill until the last day of the legislative session. The bill's sponsor, Republican Jessica Castleberry, seemingly failed to persuade the committee of the urgency of passing the law, saying at the hearing that "this is not your daddy's Playboy. Extreme, degrading, and violent pornography is only one click away from our children." She told Ars that the bill was not passed because some state lawmakers were too "easily swayed by powerful lobbyists."

"It's a travesty that unfettered access to pornography by minors online will continue in South Dakota because of lobbyists protecting the interests of their clients, versus legislators who should be protecting our children," Castleberry told Ars. "The time to pass this bill was in the mid-1990s."

Lobbyists opposing the bill at the hearing represented telecommunications and newspaper associations. Although the South Dakota bill, like the Louisiana law, exempted news organizations, one lobbyist, Justin Smith, an attorney for the South Dakota Newspaper Association, argued that the law was too vague in how it defined harmful content and how it defined which commercial entities could be subjected to liabilities.

"We just have to be careful before we put things like this into law with all of these open-ended questions that put our South Dakota businesses at risk," Smith said at the hearing. "We would ask you to defeat the bill in its current form."

These laws work by requiring age verification of all users, imposing damages on commercial entities found to be neglecting required age verification and distributing content to minors online that has been deemed to be inappropriate. The laws target online destinations where more than a third of the content is considered harmful to minors. Opponents in South Dakota anticipated that states that pass these laws, as Louisiana has, will struggle to "regulate the entire Internet." In Arkansas, violating content includes "actual, simulated, or animated displays" of body parts like nipples or genitals, touching or fondling of such body parts, as well as sexual acts like "intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation, excretory functions," or other sex acts deemed to have no "literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to minors."

When Louisiana's law took effect last month, Ars verified how major porn sites like Pornhub quickly complied. It seems likely that if new laws are passed in additional states, popular sites will be prepared to implement additional controls to block regional access to minors.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 16 2023, @08:56PM (2 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 16 2023, @08:56PM (#1292057)

    > body parts like nipples or genitals, touching or fondling of such body parts ... flagellation, excretory functions," or other sex acts

    So, now we know what our lawmakers have been spending their time watching.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by JustNiz on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:49PM (1 child)

    by JustNiz (1573) on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:49PM (#1292066)

    > body parts like nipples or genitals,

    So in other words, perfectly natural biology?
    This seems to be just another example of the ignorant and incredibly damaging prudishness in the US that apparently has its roots in the radical puritanical beliefs of the first pilgrims, and for some bizarre reason is still allowed to decide policy today.

    The very provably direct consequence of denying/artificially suppressing healthy natural imagery and natural desires is that whole generations of people grow up with significant mental issues around sex etc. This directly leads to unnatural outlets such as rape and sexual abuse of children. Proof? just look at what happens in the catholic priesthood, or the muslim countries that cover women from head to foot.

    Note that in Europe, it wasn't Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, but the massive over-reaction to it (*gasp* momentarily glimpsing a nipple) that made the USA a laughing stock. In the EU, topless women on beaches draw zero attention, let alone cause crime to happen as (most notably all the religious) "leaders" would have you believe.

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:55PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:55PM (#1292071)

      >whole generations of people grow up with significant mental issues around sex etc.

      Yup, and they're in our state Legislatures now.

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