New Louisiana law requires digital ID to access online porn, raising questions and backlash

While age verification is the purported goal, using new ID tech causes concerns about control and surveillance

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published January 4, 2023 5:42PM (EST)

Pornhub (STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Pornhub (STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A newly effective Louisiana law is placing constraints on who can access and watch pornography on the internet. And the technology it requires for the ID process is raising concerns.

Called House Bill 142, the new law requires websites containing 33.3% or more pornographic content to verify viewers' age using a government-issued form of identification, a process known as "reasonable age verification." The law was officially set into motion on Jan. 1 after it was introduced last year by Rep. Laurie Schlegel (R-LA) — who was inspired by musician Billie Eilish's comments on the harmful effects of watching porn — and approved in June by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

"Pornography is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors," the legislation text reads, per PCMag. "Due to advances in technology, the universal availability of the internet, and limited age verification requirements, minors are exposed to pornography earlier in age."

Schlegel, who is also a licensed professional counselor and certified sex addiction therapist, emphasized the importance of such laws in a statement to Fox News Digital

"We require brick and mortar businesses to check ID before providing anyone access to this type of material but somehow we've given the internet a free pass. How does this make sense? And because it's free and easily accessible without any need to verify your age, hardcore pornography is just a click away from our children. Research has shown that kids as young as six are now seeing pornography and that 1 in 10 visitors of porn sites are now under 10 years old. This is not acceptable. One researcher even said that children's unlimited access to extreme and graphic pornography is the 'largest unregulated social experiment in history' and our society is paying the price."

Under the Louisiana legislation, users can use the digital driver's license app LA Wallet to verify that they're 18 years of age or older. 

The fallout

News of the bill, however, wasn't greeted positively by everybody. Twitter user Public Defendering who's a criminal defense lawyer posted their concerns in a thread. They even cited, "Under his eye," a greeting phrase used by the people of Gilead in "The Handmaid's Tale" referring to both the authoritarian and ever-watchful eye of that novel's leadership.

Public Defendering noted that most establishments require a physical ID, which, incidentally, has less of chance of being duplicated or tracked than a digital one. They also point to a terms of service clause that allows LA Wallet third-party vendors to access user data.

For many on Twitter, questions were raised about how many children actually access porn, and whether this measure would even deter those who would. A simple VPN device is all that's needed to gain access or they could simply search elsewhere that doesn't hit the arbitrary 33.3% threshhold.


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The idea of consumers heading elsewhere is what Techdirt focuses on, implying that it's the sites themselves that may be affected – either by exiting consumers not willing their online behavior to a porn site be tracked or by the sites adjusting content to fall below the 33.3% threshhold, however that is determined. 

"It's a smokescreen that allows prudish legislators to hide their desire to control what content even adults can consume (by raising state-sponsored barriers) behind statements about concerns for the health and well-being of constituents," writes Techdirt.

As the public continues to examine what ramifications this bill could have if other states follow suit, which many conservatives are backing, a 2018 Wired story sums up the biggest issues with a state-backed digital ID requirement: 

"Digital IDs will become necessary to function in a connected digital world. This has not escaped the attention of authoritarian regimes," Wired writes. "Already, they are working to splinter the internet, collect and localize data, and impose regimes of surveillance and control. Digital ID systems, as they are being developed today, are ripe for exploitation and abuse, to the detriment of our freedoms and democracies."


By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MORE FROM Joy Saha


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Adult Content Aggregate Digital Id La Wallet Louisiana Online Safety Pornhub Pornography Surveillance