The online adult entertainment industry faces a significant uptick in age verification bills across the United States and other countries. Some believe that the current rash of these new bills could threaten much more than a consumer’s ability to access pornographic content online. Rather, there are others who expect a full-blown censorship campaign backed by political and religious groups who wish to see adult entertainment companies stripped of their legal and regulated statuses. In this blog post, Adult Site Broker dives into some of the contemporary issues in age verification.
What is Age Verification?
Age verification is pretty self-explanatory. Age verification is the process of confirming the age of an individual attempting to access or use content or services with age restrictions. Age verification is typically used to ensure that minors do not access age-restricted content or services, such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or adult content. The verification process can involve various methods, such as asking the user to enter their date of birth, verifying their government-issued identification and credit card details, or using geolocation to confirm their location. Age verification is important in complying with legal requirements and protecting minors from harmful content or services.
Age Verification Software
Age verification software is designed to verify the age of an individual who is attempting to access certain content or services online. This is done to ensure that minors do not access the same items we mentioned above. Age verification software can take many different forms, but in general, it involves techniques to confirm the age of web users.
Age Verification Software and Porn
The online adult entertainment industry has an interesting history with age verification software. More companies are more than happy to adopt age-verification protocols to prevent minors from viewing age-restricted content. However, the disconnection is when governments try to implore adult companies to mandate age verification, and elected officials neglect to include the insight of the industry. For example, this was the case in the U.S. state of Louisiana when state lawmakers chose to adopt a mandated age verification law on websites that host content that is over one-third “adult” and “pornographic.” The social-conservative government adopted the law during the 2022 legislative session and it became law on Jan. 1, 2023, to much user confusion and frustration.
Legally Mandating Age Verification Software Is Challenging
One of the more controversial elements to the passage and adoption of the Louisiana law was who proposed it. YNOT.com contributing writer Michael McGrady reported earlier in February that the Louisiana lawmaker behind this state’s age verification mandate is a notorious anti-porn activist and a so-called “therapist” for people who struggle with “porn addiction.” The concept of “porn addiction” is not a recognized mental health diagnosis by mainstream psychiatry and is viewed as pseudoscience. So, do you see the issue? Age verification, in this context, is an anti-pornography measure to censor and eventually restrict adult content that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment and other free expression legal and constitutional protections in other countries.
Understanding the Louisiana Age Verification Law
Another point of concern in the law is the fact that it requires government identification through a state-sponsored digital wallet service. Anyone trying to access a website like Pornhub within the borders of Louisiana, for instance, must submit a copy of their government-issued ID cards to a service called LA Wallet. LA Wallet is not an age verification software provider. It is a digital wallet program that allows Louisiana residents to use a digital version of their driver’s license or ID card.
Many states in the U.S. have these types of services, including Colorado. However, in order to access Pornhub, you have to confirm your identification through the LA Wallet portal and then access is granted if you are of legal age to view pornography, which is 18 years old and older. But this law doesn’t just apply to residents of Louisiana. The age verification law applies to all people – even tourists and visitors from other states in the union or from foreign countries. It’s very broad.
A Theoretical Case Study
Let’s consider an example of how this works. Imagine a married couple going to New Orleans, the party capital of the south, for Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”). The couple gets drunk and decides to return to their hotel for a sexual rendezvous. Both of them watch pornography in their home state of New Hampshire every time they have sex. Why should this night be any different?
The couple pulls out their laptop and navigates to Pornhub.com. But, there is a block on the site because Louisiana law now requires one of these two tourists from New Hampshire to confirm their age by uploading a picture of their driver’s license to a sketchy-looking verification service that claims to have the authority of the state to block their viewing, despite consent and the age.
Does this mean the couple will tolerate this just to watch porn on their favorite site? It is honestly a 50/50 call. But that is beside the point. This is more than an interruption of consumer behavior.
Digital Privacy Concerns
One other issue is sensitive data collection. Privacy legislation that mandates collecting sensitive information, such as a government identification card or credit card numbers, is usually formatted to require risk mitigation. This means that companies and age verification platforms must only collect the least amount of information that enables a platform to operate. The age verification bill in Louisiana offers very little data assurance and protection, marking a potential breach of data from a service like LA Wallet conducting age verification operations much more likely. Plus, there is just something about having to notify your government that you want to watch porn simply that is a real turn-off for porn-consuming citizens, civil libertarians, and adult website owners.
Other Age Verification Bills to Watch
These are just a few of the concerns associated with age verification laws. However, the concern in the industry is still very real. The Free Speech Coalition, a 501(c)6 trade organization representing the online adult entertainment industry, has aggressively tracked these state legislative proposals.
According to the coalition’s director of public affairs, Mike Stabile, some lawmakers in 18 states have introduced various laws that include age verification measures. AB-1505 in California is the latest measure, which would allow internet platforms with adult content to be sued if a minor is able to access them. This is the format of Louisiana law, which creates a legal tort against sites.
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