Ohio bill would require porn companies to get age verification

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(The Center Square) – Disregarding age restrictions for pornography and creating sexual “deepfakes” may soon trigger criminal charges in Ohio.

A proposal offered in the state legislature makes distributing sexually explicit material without verifying a customer’s age a third-degree felony. Likewise, minors caught lying about their identity to access porn would face a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Steve Demetrious, R-Bainbridge Township, said the legislation – which he calls the Innocence Act – would protect children from online threats. By creating “a common sense, age-appropriate barrier to ensure that Ohio children cannot access this harmful content with the tap of an app on a smartphone.”

“Studies have shown that pornography is a pathway to mental health issues for children and can be a precursor to sexual aggression,” he said. “Additionally, it is no secret that the porn industry and human trafficking often overlap.”

The bill would prohibit selling what Demetriou called deepfakes, or manipulating facial appearances through artificial intelligence to create visual and audio content, of people engaged in sexual acts. The dissemination of this material will be charged as a third-degree felony.

In early September, a federal judge struck down a similar Texas law and blocked enforcement, saying it violated free speech rights and was too vague.

Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Louisiana have similar laws. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also signed a bill earlier this month requiring porn companies to receive age verification. That bill goes into effect next year.

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