Indiana Proposes Age Verification For Adult Websites

In a move championed by conservatives for fostering online safety, a Republican Indiana lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at shielding minors from adult content on the internet. State Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores) proposes mandatory age verification for sites displaying adult material, a measure that resonates with concerned parents and guardians.

The bill, set for the 2024 legislative session, requires operators to confirm a viewer’s age using a mobile credential, a third-party service, or other reliable methods. Non-compliance would result in a Class A misdemeanor, escalating to a Level 6 felony for repeat offenders.

This legislation aligns with similar laws in seven other states, reflecting a growing trend to extend protections commonplace in other age-restricted online sectors, like sports betting, to adult content.

Opponents, such as Indianapolis attorney Mark Nicholson, caution against setting dangerous precedents that could lead to broader internet content restrictions. Nonetheless, Bohacek maintains the bill’s intent is not to censor but to ensure internet safety for children, a stance gaining traction among conservative audiences seeking to preserve family values in the digital age​​.

The debate over age verification for adult sites like Pornhub is intensifying as more states legislate to protect minors from explicit content online. Following Louisiana’s lead, Virginia, Mississippi and Utah have enacted similar laws. While these measures enjoy bipartisan support, they’ve prompted Pornhub to limit access in certain states, citing challenges with compliance and doubts about effectiveness.

Legal and practical concerns persist about enforcing such laws, especially given children’s increasing digital fluency. Opponents argue that these regulations could invade privacy and stigmatize consumers. However, proponents, noting the ease of access to harmful content, remain steadfast, viewing age verification as a reasonable safeguard for minors.

As the legislative landscape evolves with upcoming laws in Arkansas, Texas and Montana, and with litigation underway, the efficacy and constitutionality of these age verification requirements remain a contentious topic. The adult industry, while supportive of keeping minors safe, questions the sustainability of the current approach, suggesting device-level controls as an alternative.

The issue strikes at the heart of a broader societal question of how to effectively balance protecting children with the freedoms of adults in the increasingly complex digital world.