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Watching Porn Online in Louisiana Now Requires ID Verification

PornHub and LA State Rep. Laurie Schlegel
Republican state Rep. Laurie Schlegel -- the sponsor of the bill

A conservative lawmaker said she had to author the legislation to protect young people.

As of Sunday, people logging on to the Internet in Louisiana wishing to watch pornography must first upload their driver's license.

According to the law that went into effect this year, websites that publish pornography are required to verify a user's age before granting access to adult content. To access the material, users must verify their identity with the state's digital driver's license app, LA Wallet.

"Due to advances in technology, the universal availability of the internet, and limited age verification requirements, minors are exposed to pornography earlier in age," the law reads. "Pornography contributes to the hyper-sexualization of teens and prepubescent children and may lead to low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior."

Porn sites must use age-verification technology to prevent access to "material harmful to minors on the internet" under the statute.

The law also applies to digital publishers, whose content is 33.3 percent sexually explicit. Publishers who fail to comply can be fined.

A New Orleans-based attorney captured PornHub's new landing page, which alerts users to the new requirement.

"Hello from the surveillance state of Louisiana. People in Louisiana have to use their drivers license to go to pornhub. This is truly wild. Under his eye," they wrote.

Republican state Rep. Laurie Schlegel, who, according to her LinkedIn page, has been a licensed professional counselor since February 2021, is the law's sponsor.

Schlegel told New Orleans FOX affiliate WVUE, "Pornography is destroying our children, and they're getting unlimited access to it on the internet, and so if the pornography companies aren't going to be responsible, I thought we need to go ahead and hold them accountable."

More universally, pornography companies already require users to acknowledge they are of legal age and submit a valid credit card for payment.

Schlegel hopes to convince Republicans in Congress to support a similar federal bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

She tweeted in advance of the law's implementation, "Hopefully, Congress will be looking at this issue soon. @SenMikeLee recently filed legislation; the SCREEN Act. Age verification is a must to protect children from the dangers of online pornography. Research shows filters are wholly inadequate."

Critics warn that the unintended consequences of this crackdown include pushing users who refuse to access sites with verification because of privacy concerns and who would otherwise access legal content on mainstream sites toward obscure and questionable websites, which may contribute to the exploitation of minors and trafficking of people for sexual exploitation.

These age verification checks are part of a "sex panic," according to Olivia Snow, a sex worker, professor, and research fellow at UCLA's Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. Despite this legislation stating that sites that conduct age verification cannot retain identifying information, Snow believes consumers are still understandably concerned about privacy, TechCrunch reports.

"It's really just further marginalizing sex workers, which I think is going to be the primary effect," Snow told the outlet. "I imagine this means that there will be an increased black market of premium content that's non-consensually disseminated."

Australia and the UK already require age verification for access to pornography through a number of third-party verification providers.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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