Starting on Jan. 1 new legislation in Louisiana mandates that adult websites verify the age of their visitors using identification documents or other personal information. The law requires more than just selecting a birthdate from a pulldown menu and affects websites with more than 30% pornographic content.
The aim is to prevent underage access to adult content and to address the issue of the proliferation of online pornography, which has made it difficult to determine whether those appearing in adult content have given their consent or have been fairly compensated.
Louisiana residents have an advantage due to the state’s 2016 digital ID law, which created LA Wallet, a smartphone app that provides businesses with a means to verify age or identity. While there are debates surrounding the pros and cons of digitizing government IDs, Louisiana residents accessing adult content won’t need to provide a large amount of personal information to verify their age.
However, according to a report by Ars Technica, some critics of the law argue that it places individuals’ privacy and personal information at risk, as verification processes may involve the collection and storage of sensitive data. The law has also faced criticism for its moralistic underpinnings, which some argue fail to address the root causes of harmful behavior.
To verify visitors’ age, the law stipulates that websites check government-issued IDs or other public or private records, such as employment or mortgage documents. This broad array of acceptable identification could cause visitors to become accustomed to handing over private information to anyone who asks.
According to Ars Technica, an associate director of digital strategy for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jason Kelley said, “that kind of sensitive data collection poses privacy risks to all users of porn sites. It’s especially concerning for those using smaller (pornography) sites that may not be able to afford a comprehensive age verification solution to ensure that data is not improperly collected or sold. Even when laws specifically stipulate that websites cannot store or sell any data collected through age verification methods, users cannot be sure what will happen with their data.”
The law raises questions about privacy, security, and the potential for identity theft.
The legislation claims that “Pornography may also impact brain development and function, contributes to emotional and mental illness, shapes deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addictions.”
Critics of the law argue that it seems to be founded on potentially questionable assertions, and any usage of such terms within legislation should be regarded with considerable skepticism.
The implementation of the new law highlights the ongoing challenges posed by the easy availability of adult content online, as well as the need to balance concerns about underage access with privacy and personal information protections.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides resources for individuals and families who are dealing with pornography addiction. These resources include counseling services, addiction recovery programs, and educational materials on how to avoid pornography.