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Tennessee pornographic website age-verification bill shifts enforcement to AG

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(The Center Square) – A bill that would require adult pornographic websites to verify the age of those viewing the website in Tennessee advanced in the Senate on Tuesday after a change to lower the costs of its implementation.

Senate Bill 1792 initially had a fiscal note saying it would cost the state more than $4 million in the first year and then $2 million each year after that.

The amended version of the bill drops that estimate to just less than $30,000 annually for increased costs of incarceration. The bill requires websites to verify the age of those viewing content on the site through either a photo that matches the identification of someone 18 or older or private transactional information that does the same.

The significant change that caused the cost drop was eliminating the Department of Homeland Security from overseeing and enforcing the law. Instead, it puts the Tennessee attorney general in charge of bringing action against the commercial entity publishing the adult content.

Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, said that Rep. Patsy Hazlewood worked with the attorney general’s office to alter the bill.

The Department of Homeland Security had estimated that it would cost $3 million to create a cyber forensics lab to investigate offenses. The cost includes the lab, equipment, storage, software licensing and training.

The recurring maintenance and storage expenses, software licensing and staffing will lead to the recurring expenses.

The website would be required to retain the age verification information for seven years but to anonymize it.

The offenses would become a class C felony and the entity would be liable for damages, including attorney’s costs and court fees.

“It is assumed that a majority of entities will either stop publishing such content or will take steps necessary to meet the requirements of this legislation,” the bill’s fiscal note said. “However, it is assumed that the proposed legislation will result in one Class C felony conviction each year.”

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