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Looking to watch porn in Louisiana? Expect to hand over your ID

Louisiana's new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, will protect minors from viewing pornography. However, experts argue that the law could come with serious privacy risks.
Lionel Bonaventure
/
AFP via Getty Images
Louisiana's new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, will protect minors from viewing pornography. However, experts argue that the law could come with serious privacy risks.

On websites showcasing adult-only content, verifying your age by typing your birthdate and clicking "Go" is deemed a simple process. But in Louisiana, that's no longer the case.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, people in Louisiana will need to present proof of their age, such as a government-issued ID, to visit and view pornographic websites like Pornhub, YouPorn and Redtube.

The controversial law, known as Act 440, requires adult websites to screen their visitors using "reasonable age verification." The new law applies to any websites whose content is at least 33.3% pornographic material that is "harmful to minors," according to the bill signed last June. The law doesn't specify how the 33.3% would be calculated.

"Any commercial entity that knowingly and intentionally publishes or distributes material harmful to minors on the internet from a website that contains a substantial portion of such material shall be held liable if the entity fails to perform reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of individuals attempting to access the material," the bill states.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' office did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment on how those without a valid driver's license or other government-issued ID can access online porn in Louisiana.

Representatives at Pornhub, YouPorn and Redtube did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment on Louisiana's new law.

Concerns grow about online privacy with the new law

As with any form of online verification in which you enter sensitive data such as your driver's license information, address, phone number or Social Security number, concerns grow as to whether your information is fully protected against security breaches and hacks.

And with Louisiana's new law, experts argue that the verification process could potentially come with serious privacy risks for users.

Jason Kelley, the associate director of digital strategy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told NPR that it's reasonable for consumers to have concerns about their privacy when it comes to sharing private information with third parties — especially when there's no guarantee that the data won't be retained.

"There is the explicit intention in the law that verifiers and websites that are using age verification should not retain [your information]," Kelley said.

"But users don't have a lot of guarantees that it will happen and the data will be removed or deleted and [won't be] shared or used in other ways," he added.

The new law aims to hold adult websites accountable

Rep. Laurie Schlegel, the bill's sponsor, emphasized in a tweet last week before the law went into effect that age verification is "a must to protect children from the dangers of online pornography."

"Online pornography is extreme and graphic and only one click away from our children. This is not your daddy's Playboy," Schlegel tweeted, adding that the law is "a first step" in holding pornography companies accountable.

Louisiana is the first U.S. state to implement age verification to view adult content online. Other states, such as California, have passed similar laws restricting minors' access.

In Washington, D.C., Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced a bill last month that would similarly require age verification, but on a national level. Additionally, he introduced a bill to change the definition of what is considered "obscene" under the Communications Act of 1934.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.