Senate Bill 2164 and House Bill 3585, introduced by Republicans Sen. Bryan Hughes and Rep. Terri Leo-Wilson, seek to amend the state's Business and Commerce Code with what their bills refer to as "reasonable" age verification methods. The goal would be to regulate adult content online. (Related: Recently passed New York state bills could pave way for future legislation mandating adult enrollment in state vaccination database.)
In the proposed bills, lawmakers state that they want to make digital identification available to sites and social media platforms that are "more than one-third" sexual in nature. The digital identification is defined by lawmakers as information stored on a digital network as proof of a user's identity, such as a picture of a government ID. This is to verify that visitors to their sites are 18 years old or over.
The bill also states that once the age verification process has been completed, either by the site or social media platform itself or by a third party, neither the third party nor the site or platform are supposed to retain the personal information gathered in this way.
Alternatively, site visitors can also provide "a commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transnational data to verify the age of an individual."
The websites of "bona fide" news organizations are exempt from the age verification requirement.
"The porn industry has preyed on the most vulnerable, our children," noted State Rep. Nate Schatzline, who proposed a bill similar to HB 3585 in the state house just a week prior. "Requiring age verification for explicit content should be a no-brainer. Texas has no place for people who intend to harm kids."
Texas is not the only state to pass legislation requiring age verification online to prevent children from gaining access to adult content on the internet.
Louisiana, which passed similar legislation last year, requires age verification using government-issued IDs or public or private transnational data. State residents looking to access websites that are at least one-third sexual in nature are directed to confirm their identity through a state-run app called LA Wallet that digitizes their driver's license.
Just days ago, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed social media regulation laws that require minors to get parental consent to remain on social media platforms.
The laws require that social media companies set up systems to verify the age of any Utah resident who makes a social media profile and get parental consent from any minor who wishes to make a profile. The laws also require social media companies to allow parents to access the posts and messages of the accounts of their children should they request it.
Furthermore, social media companies are prohibited from displaying ads to minors, showing the accounts of minors in search results, collecting information about minors, targeting or suggesting content to minors or knowingly integrating any "addictive technologies" into social media apps regularly used by minors.
Similar bills are making their way through the state legislatures of Mississippi and Virginia. A similar bill has also been submitted to the United States Senate.
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