Louisiana’s new age verification law, which requires websites that host “material harmful to children” to verify the age of their users, should raise red flags for those concerned about safety and speech online—writes Daniel Castro for InsideSources. Allowing one state to dictate online rules will likely lead to 50 different standards, creating a byzantine patchwork of digital rules for businesses and consumers. Congress should not allow states to pass these types of online safety laws and instead address the issue at the federal level.
The Louisiana law requires online services where more than one-third of the content they publish or distribute is “harmful to children” to use age verification to bar minors from accessing their sites. Any that fail to comply can be liable for damages. The law defines the harmful material in question broadly as any material that, according to “contemporary community standards,” appeals or panders to “the prurient interest”; contains “patently offensive” descriptions, displays and depictions of sexual content; and does not have “literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.”
The Louisiana law sets a problematic precedent for every state legislature to make their own versions of the bill. Duplicative laws inflate business compliance costs, and higher compliance costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.