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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: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 17 2023, @01:28PM (3 children)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 17 2023, @01:28PM (#1292157) Journal

    I suppose that it depends on your definition of small children. When children are old enough to go to school without an adult accompanying them then they are old enough to have their own device, be that a tablet, cell phone or whatever, but not before.

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  • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Friday February 17 2023, @08:45PM (2 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 17 2023, @08:45PM (#1292269) Journal

    So, first grade students should be entitled to a cell phone? Interesting. But preschool, kindergarden, day care, etc gets no phone. Of maybe I'm relying on my own decades old experience too much. At age 5, I started first grade - no preschool, head start, or any of that other stuff. I walked 1/2 mile to the bus stop, by myself. No adult supervision until I got on the bus. If a child today was accepted into 1st grade with no other previous schooling, would you say he should have a phone? I know, that's probably irrelevant.

    I think that I'm unwilling to allow a child to use the internet unsupervised, until he has entered puberty. That kinda depends on the child - any semi-observant parent knows which of his children is less trustworthy. One child, I might buy, or allow to buy a cell phone at 12 or 13, another I might not permit him to have a phone until 14 or 15. Around the time they start dating, it's time to give them their own choice.

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    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Saturday February 18 2023, @07:41AM (1 child)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 18 2023, @07:41AM (#1292342) Journal

      I did not go away from the house unsupervised until I was 8 or 9 years old. I could play with other children but we weren't allowed to go more than, say, a mile from the front door. I could visit a river, woods, and fields all within that distance quite easily. And this was around the same time and place as the Moors Murderers [wikipedia.org] and their like were around.

      I didn't need a cell phone. But if you are talking about a cell phone and not a tablet (my tablet does not have a 'phone connection although it can connect to wifi) then your site blocking is of limited value. How will you stop incoming phone calls, which might contain images or even short clips sent by other people, your child's friends perhaps? If you think that they will not be able to see pornography then you are in for a shock. Won't your child still be able to communicate with strangers? If they have been raised properly they will know about responsibility for their actions and hopefully begin to make intelligent decisions for themselves rather than have to seek your permission before they can answer the phone.

      We all parent differently - you can choose to do it however you wish.

      I have to agree with others in this discussion. From here in Europe we find it bizarre that you can accept "shooter drills' being necessary for kindergarten children, yet they mustn't see the natural body parts of another person regardless of what activity that person is engaged. I wonder which has killed the most children in the USA so far this year. Oh, that is a difficult one to answer.......

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      I am not interested in knowing who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
      • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Saturday February 18 2023, @02:23PM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday February 18 2023, @02:23PM (#1292372) Journal

        I have to agree with others in this discussion. From here in Europe we find it bizarre that you can accept "shooter drills' being necessary for kindergarten children, yet they mustn't see the natural body parts of another person regardless of what activity that person is engaged. I wonder which has killed the most children in the USA so far this year. Oh, that is a difficult one to answer.......

        I can agree with that. We do have too much censorship, and the censorship is way off target.

        Back to devices though. No, I'm not going to encourage any pre-pubescent child to have a cell phone. Something like True Caller will help to filter out trash, but it isn't really suitable for children. https://www.truecaller.com/download [truecaller.com]

        A locked down tablet is sufficient for pre-pubescents, and when they reach an age when a phone is considered necessary, then we'll look at possible solutions. I think most telco family plans offer filtering, we'll have to look at that.

        But, the fact is, you can't really keep a child locked down forever. Hopefully, by the time the kid is ready for a phone, you've instilled some values in the child, and they will accept your limits. If not - well - life happens.

        --
        ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’