Proposed bill would require age verification on pornography websites
Sen. Tyler Dees presented his bill aimed at protecting children from accessing harmful materials like pornography online to a Senate committee Jan. 31, 2023. The full Senate passed the bill on Feb. 1, 2023.(Photo: Screenshot from livestream)
A Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill to require age verification for online material that’s harmful to minors, such as pornography.
Adult-oriented businesses are typically regulated with an age verification process, and that same standard must be applied to online materials, Senate Bill 66 sponsor Sen. Tyler Dees (R-Siloam Springs) told Senate Committee on Insurance and Commerce members. The purpose of the bill is to protect children, he said.
“I’m the father of three young kids, and I see technology advancing,” Dees said. “The way I describe it is it’s like a weapon. It’s a sword and it can be used for good, and it can be used to cut your arm off.”
The bill defines “material harmful to minors” as material that’s designed to appeal or pander to “prurient interest,” meaning overtly sexual in behavior.
The same language is used in a bill to regulate drag performances that was approved by the Senate last week. Opponents of Senate Bill 43 have argued that prurient is not clearly defined in law.
To meet the legislation’s “reasonable age verification” requirement, a commercial entity could use a digital copy of a driver’s license. Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) shared a constituent’s concerns about protecting personal information.
Dees said the bill allows a commercial entity to be liable for damages should it leak personal information.
Family Council executive director Jerry Cox was the only person to speak in favor of the bill. No one spoke against it.
While Irvin voted for the bill, she noted that the government can’t fix everything and that parents have to take responsibility for their children.
“At the end of the day, if parents give these devices to their teenage children, then it’s the parents’ fault,” she said.
The bill passed unanimously on a voice vote and now heads to the full Senate.
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