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Louisiana Begins Requiring Government ID to Access Online Porn

HB 142 officially went into effect January 1, mandating that websites with more than one-third pornographic content verify user age via official ID.

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Louisiana’s newest law to protect minors could come with serious privacy risks.
Louisiana’s newest law to protect minors could come with serious privacy risks.
Image: New Africa (Shutterstock)

In New Orleans, you can drink alcohol openly in the streets. You can even throw your own parade. But to access porn on the internet, you now need to present proof of government-issued ID, as a new law goes into effect.

Louisiana state House Bill 142 requires adult sites to screen visitors via “reasonable age verification,” or face possible legal consequences. And the law, signed all the way back in June and effective as of January 1, 2023, defines “reasonable age verification” rather narrowly. Gone are the days of the “agree that you’re 18+ box,” or the “input your birth year” drop down menu in the Bayou State.

Instead, under the law, porn publishing websites can either demand that users present a digitized ID card based on a form of government ID, or simply show their government-issued ID. A vague, third option also allows companies to use “any commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transactional data to verify the age of the person.” So, in theory, porn sites (or third-party services) could mine users’ credit card, insurance, employment, bank, or other financial information to find verifiable proof of age— which some already do. But for the most part, adult sites will probably stick to driver’s licenses.

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Louisiana allows digital driver’s licenses through the state’s LA Wallet initiative and app. It’s via that LA Wallet system that popular porn sites like Pornhub, Youporn, and Redtube appear to be newly verifying user ages. At Allpasstrust.com, users can connect their LA Wallet to accounts on all three platforms. And a link on the adult sites directs to that same page, as demonstrated in this tweet from a Louisiana-based lawyer.

Gizmodo reached out to Pornhub, Youporn, and Redtube with questions about the new policy, and did not immediately receive a response. It’s currently unclear if or how those without Louisiana drivers licenses can readily access online pornography in the state.

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A platform is considered a porn publisher and subject to the new restrictions if at least one-third of the content on its website meets the bill’s extensive definition of “material harmful to minors,” which lists specific types of sexual or vulgar acts, including “fondling of...anuses,” and “excretory functions.” If sites fail to comply with the new ID-requirements, the company could be held liable for distributing harmful material to minors and face fines.

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The logic behind the legislation is that porn is corrupting the youth. “Pornography is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors,” the bill text reads. And, though some research suggests that early exposure to pornography can have negative mental health impacts on children and teens, past attempts to censor minors’ access to adult content online have notably failed. Internet savvy young people have a multitude of ways to get around content filters and parental blocks. Louisiana’s latest effort will likely be no different. After all, a simple VPN can bypass the new age verification restrictions.

However, officially identifying oneself to view pornography could have serious consequences for adults, should there be a security breach. HB142 decrees that the companies or third-parties performing the age verification “shall not retain any identifying information...after access has been granted.” Pornhub states on its website that it doesn’t collect any data during the process, and “your proof of age does not allow anyone to trace your online activity.” Yet it’s hard to imagine a foolproof system that both verifies someone’s exact age and somehow doesn’t lead to increased privacy risk.

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State-run systems are frequently vulnerable to digital attacks. And third-party systems like password managers and login verification services have recently been targets of some major hacks.

Nonetheless, Louisiana isn’t the only place to introduce official age verification requirements for adult content on the internet. France’s parliament passed similar legislation in 2020. And back in 2019, another age verification law was proposed in the United Kingdom (but ultimately scrapped amid privacy concerns.)

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In the U.S., Utah’s Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced the federally-focused SCREEN Act last month, which would require age verification for online adult content nationwide if passed, along with another bill intended to diminish porn’s First Amendment protections.