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Ohio pushes for age verification for porn

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(The Center Square) – A senator and the lieutenant governor want Ohio to follow the lead of eight other states and require independent age verification to protect children from pornography.

The legislation would prohibit businesses from distributing pornographic material online without first verifying the age of the person accessing their websites.

Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Montana, Virginia and North Carolina all have similar laws.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Dublin, said the legislation is crucial to help curtail online pornography and protect youth from what she called “harmful internet content and addiction.”

“This legislation is critical in shielding our children from adult content and we must come together as a General Assembly to do all that we can to keep our youth healthy and safe,” Kunze said.

The bill would require age verification through an independent, third-party service. The service, though, could not retain personal information after access has been granted or denied.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the bipartisan legislation applies the same rules already in place in the physical world to the digital world.

He said teens continue to be inundated with adult content they can’t handle, and parents cannot help because they don’t understand the technology.

All that, he said, has led to increases in suicide, depression, exposure to adult content and academic decline.

“This is part of a continuing fight to protect our kids from what’s going on in the digital world,” Husted said. “Kids are suffering, and we need to help them. In Ohio we’ve been trying to deal with this through the Social Media Parental Consent Act.”

The Social Media Parental Consent Act was scheduled to take effect Monday, but a lawsuit filed by a trade association representing social media companies operating apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok stopped it when a temporary injunction was ordered following a lawsuit.

A hearing is scheduled Feb. 7.

“Ohio lawmakers had good intentions, being concerned about the mental health and well-being of young people,” NetChoice, the trade association, said on its website. “But unfortunately, the law they implemented, the Social Media Parental Notification Act, violates constitutional rights and rips away a parent’s authority to care for their child as they find appropriate – all while violating the safety and security of all Ohioans, especially kids and teens.”

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