A new bill filed by a pair of Arkansas senators would force adults in Arkansas to verify their age to access pornography websites on the internet. The proposed legislation would hold commercial entities liable for damages for content deemed “harmful for minors” if they don’t require age verification.

Sponsored by a pair of freshman senators, Sen. Tyler Dees (R-Siloam Springs) and Sen. Jim Petty (R-Van Buren), the bill is modeled on a law that took effect in Louisiana beginning Jan. 1. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a pair of bills late last year with a similar thrust: One would require pornography websites to adopt age-verification technology and another would establish a national definition of obscenity, which would effectively ban pornography nationwide.

Advertisement

The Arkansas bill says that pornography contributes to “the hyper-sexualization of minors” and may lead to “low self-esteem; body image disorders; an increase in problematic sexual activity in younger ages; increased desire among minors to engage in risky sexual behavior; difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships; impact brain development and function; contribute to emotional and mental illness; shape deviant sexual arousal; and promote problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction.”

The legislation seemingly arbitrarily defines the threshold for a website to require age verification as when at least 23.33% of the content on the site is deemed harmful to minors. In Louisiana the standard is 33.3%. The Arkansas bill defines material that’s harmful to minors as “actual, simulated or animated displays” of the “nipple of a female breast, pubic hair, anus, vulva or genitals; touching, caressing or fondling of nipples, breasts, buttocks, the anus or genitals; sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation, excretory functions, exhibitions of sexual acts or any other sexual acts.”

Advertisement

The bill says that adults can use a digital government-issued ID card or a “commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transactional data” to verify age. I’ve asked the Department of Finance and Administration if state-issued ID cards already exist. Louisiana uses LA Wallet, an application that includes a digital driver’s license and a health card that includes vaccination information, something that surely wouldn’t fly in this legislature.

The Arkansas bill says that sites that employ age-verification can’t retain identifying information about the user.

Advertisement

Vice reports that Pornhub, perhaps the internet’s most used porn site, is complying with the Louisiana law, but other major sites aren’t.

I asked a friend in New Orleans about the new law. He said once he was directed to input his ID on Pornhub, he started using a virtual private network, which savvy internet users (e.g. the kids) use to disguise their online identity to watch sports or streaming content that’s only available in other countries or do nefarious things. There’s no way to legislate against that.

UPDATE: Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, said, “While a digital ID is not yet available, we have been working toward determining what will be needed to implement this option in Arkansas.

Advertisement

“We don’t have a specific timeframe in which the digital ID may be obtained by Arkansans although it remains a priority. “