Growing Momentum: More States Push for Age Verification Laws to Protect Children from Online Pornography

A growing number of states are considering legislation that would require age verification for access to pornography sites. In 2024, as many as twelve additional states in the United States are weighing bills of their own, following the lead of seven states that adopted similar measures last year. The goal of these laws is to establish a barrier between children and adult content online, potentially paving the way for federal legislation on the issue. Despite the broad public support for these age verification requirements, powerful interests from the tech and pornography industries are pushing back against these regulations.

Lobbyists from both industries are converging on the U.S. Capitol to protect the ability of Big Tech companies to target and advertise to children. A recent study found that there is roughly one social media lobbyist in Washington for every four members of Congress, highlighting the influence these industries wield. Additionally, these lobbyists are also working at the state level to dismantle existing laws designed to protect children from accessing pornography and social media platforms.

These age verification laws have gained bipartisan support, with both Democratic and Republican governors signing them into law. A national poll conducted in late 2022 found that 86 percent of parents believe it is “too easy” for kids to access pornography online. The negative effects of pornography on children, such as difficulties forming relationships and mental health problems, contribute to this strong support among parents.

The porn industry and Big Tech argue that age verification laws violate free speech rights and that adults should have unrestricted access to pornography. However, experts argue that these industries prioritize profits over speech, as online porn platforms attract billions of visits each month and generate substantial revenue from advertisements. Furthermore, these platforms use addiction as a strategy to keep children engaged and manipulate them with graphic ads from third parties.

Age verification has proven to be an effective solution to address this crisis. After Louisiana implemented age limits for accessing pornography, traffic to the site Pornhub from the state dropped by 80 percent. While no age verification system is foolproof, similar measures have been implemented to prevent underage access to cigarettes and alcohol.

Critics argue that these laws may face legal challenges and could be deemed unconstitutional. However, recent technological advancements allow for anonymous age verification, addressing concerns about burdening adult users. Some lawmakers are preparing for a potential legal battle, confident in the strength of these laws and the erosion of the factual predicates that previously supported legal precedents in favor of the porn industry.

The battle for the well-being of America’s children is at stake, making the implementation of age verification laws crucial. Despite the potential challenges ahead, the growing support for these regulations and the mounting evidence against the porn industry’s arguments suggest that these laws could prevail in the end.

Michael Toscano, executive director of the Institute for Family Studies, believes that age verification laws are a necessary and worthwhile endeavor. Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding common ground on important issues.