Which states are considering age verification for internet users? 

Some US states have recently announced that there could be tighter restrictions to limit underage internet users from accessing social media and adult content websites. 

These initiatives aim to address issues like excessive screen time and developmental concerns while improving online safety and privacy for minors. However, they also prompt concerns about privacy, data security, and potential overreach.

Arkansas, Utah, and Louisiana have already passed laws that require social media companies to verify the age of new users, with parental consent needed for those under 18, or to validate users’ IDs, including options like government-issued digital IDs.

Furthermore, ten states—Connecticut, California, Texas, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, and Rhode Island—are considering similar age verification requirements for social media platforms. California’s proposed legislation is particularly broad, requiring all social media users to verify their age, with parental consent mandatory for minors.

Some states are extending these age verification requirements to adult content websites. Indiana’s new law, Senate Enrolled Act 17, mandates age verification for users of pornographic sites, effective July 1, 2024. 

However, these sites have launched multiple lawsuits against the state, arguing that the law infringes on the U.S. Constitution and the federal Communication Decency Act. They also claim it violates adults’ privacy rights and exposes personal information to cyber threats. Concerns about data breaches and identity theft have been raised as well.

Despite these legal challenges, precedent is not in their favour; Texas recently secured a Supreme Court ruling upholding similar legislation. Lawmakers behind these measures face the complex task of enforcing such laws without appearing overly intrusive.

Should states employ AI and facial age estimation, require government-issued IDs or credit cards, or use live photo verification? These methods risk exposing more personal information than necessary, and facial recognition could lead to misuse of biometric data.

A report from the Open Technology Institute (OTI) suggests that device-based age verification might be the best solution. For instance, a user could verify their age via their Apple ID, Google account, or Microsoft account directly through their device, without uploading additional personal information.

This approach blocks underage users from accessing adult content on devices that have not been age-verified. Proponents argue that this method effectively prevents minors from bypassing restrictions by verifying age directly on their devices.

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