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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, Interesting) by MIRV888 on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:30PM (5 children)

    by MIRV888 (11376) on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:30PM (#1292063)

    1st of all the legislators are wasting their limited time on this bs instead of addressing the huge number of real world issues at hand.
    2nd they are out of touch with reality if they think legislation will somehow prevent teens from accessing porn on the web.
    3rd most state legislators have their seats for life. Incumbents are rarely defeated in rural districts unless they kill someone.
    So here we are.
    I'm investing in NordVPN today.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:50PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16 2023, @09:50PM (#1292068)

    Let me guess... CA, WA, NY, MA, DC, IL?

    So all we need now is a definitive definition of pornography.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 16 2023, @10:50PM (3 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 16 2023, @10:50PM (#1292080)

    > the legislators are wasting their limited time on this bs

    Have you ever actually tried to talk with a State legislator? I'm sure it varies from location to location, but the ones who have represented me when I could have used some help from them were such high quality individuals as: Real Estate agents, otherwise unemployable military veterans, business developers (who need to bend the laws to make their businesses profitable), and generally people with just enough money to have enough time on their hands to run a campaign, and just barely enough personal charm to gather more votes than their opponents. Intelligence, Integrity, Idealism? Strictly optional, and usually missing on all three counts.

    At the national level, where the constituencies run around 800,000 people or more, those tend to be slightly more competent seeming at least in a casual conversation. The staties like are passing this bill? Your average next door neighbors are probably quantifiably "better people" than them on just about any scale you care to measure.

    --
    🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16 2023, @11:32PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 16 2023, @11:32PM (#1292089)

      At the national level, where the constituencies run around 800,000 people or more, those tend to be slightly more competent seeming at least in a casual conversation.

      Hi. I'm George Santos and I'd like tell you about the opportunity of a lifetime [newsweek.com]!

      By the way, do you like to play volleyball?

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday February 17 2023, @12:04AM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday February 17 2023, @12:04AM (#1292094)

        I never thought they weren't scumbags, after all they are career politicians. But... At that level at least they are somewhat competent scumbags.

        --
        🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 2, Touché) by khallow on Friday February 17 2023, @05:10AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 17 2023, @05:10AM (#1292125) Journal

      Have you ever actually tried to talk with a State legislator? I'm sure it varies from location to location, but the ones who have represented me when I could have used some help from them were such high quality individuals as: Real Estate agents, otherwise unemployable military veterans, business developers (who need to bend the laws to make their businesses profitable), and generally people with just enough money to have enough time on their hands to run a campaign, and just barely enough personal charm to gather more votes than their opponents. Intelligence, Integrity, Idealism? Strictly optional, and usually missing on all three counts.

      To be fair, you live in Florida.