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Kansas bill would require people to verify their age before accessing adult content online

The Kansas Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)
File photo
Kansas Public Radio
Kansas lawmakers are considering a bill that would require people to verify they're at least 18 before accessing sexually explicit content on the internet.

Similar bills have become law in Louisiana and Utah.

People in Kansas would have to verify their age before accessing adult content on the internet under a bill being considered by state lawmakers.

Websites that host sexual content would have to verify their users are at least 18, most likely through third-party services that verify age using government IDs or other personal information.

Supporters of the bill say it would prevent minors from accessing pornographic content that could potentially be harmful to their psychological development and views on sex.

“Not only does pornography harm children’s well-being – there is also a strong correlation between pornography, human trafficking and sexual abuse,” said Joseph Kohm, director of public policy for the Colorado-based Family Policy Alliance.

But critics say bills like the one being considered in Kansas could violate internet users’ free speech and privacy rights.

Under the bill, websites or third parties that access personal information for age verification would be prohibited from using that information for other purposes. Some say that can be difficult to enforce in the U.S.

Iain Corby is the executive director of the Age Verification Providers Association, a nonprofit that helps verify the age of users on adult sites in European countries where it’s required by law.

“In Europe, it’s a little easier for people to have confidence in that because we have the General Data Protection Regulation, a general privacy-of-data security law,” he said. “This bill helpfully includes privacy and data protection provisions that effectively replicate those general privacy protections that we benefit from here in Europe.”

The bill would not require a specific method of age verification, only outlining that sites could use any "commercially reasonable method” approved by the Kansas attorney general.

Similar bills have become law in Louisiana and Utah in recent years, and they seem to be holding up against legal scrutiny in those states.

In Utah, PBS NewsHour reports that some sites have employed services powered by artificial intelligence that use webcams to analyze a person’s face to determine if they are at least 18, even without taking any other personal data. Other sites have blocked their pages from being accessible altogether in the state.

The Kansas bill is tailored so that it would only target sites that primarily host sexual content. It says age verification would only be required for sites on which 25% or more of the content viewed by users each month is sexually explicit.

Daniel Caudill reports on the Kansas Statehouse and government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can email him at dcaudill@ku.edu.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.