Legislation requires age verification to view explicit online content

State Senator Erica Harriss (R-Glen Carbon) filed legislation to protect minors from exposure to harmful and inappropriate content online by implementing age verification requirements in Illinois.

The Adult Content Age Verification Act, Senate Bill 2950, would require businesses to put in place “reasonable age verification methods” to ensure that individuals entering pornographic websites are indeed of legal age.

“Our youth are incredibly vulnerable on the internet, and they have access to a wide variety of adult content, some of which can be harmful, hurtful, and inappropriate,” said Senator Harriss. “I filed this legislation to help protect children from accessing explicit material intended for adult viewership by requiring more accountability from pornographic websites.”    

A recent report found that most teens had consumed porn online and first encountered it on average at age 12. More than half were exposed accidentally, including from friends or classmates, search engine results, social media, or by clicking links, according to the report’s findings.

“Leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, warn that consuming pornography as a minor can be associated with a variety of negative emotional, psychological, behavioral and physical health outcomes,” said Sen. Harriss. “My legislation puts the health of our children first, by implementing reasonable verification requirements that should be expected of businesses profiting off non-verified underaged viewers.”

Harriss’ legislation identifies the “reasonable age verification methods” a business must follow, include requiring a government-issued ID or any commercial method that relies on specific transactional data to verify the person is 18 years or older.

Businesses would be given 30 days to comply with the appropriate age verification methods. If entities fail to do so, they will be subject to civil penalties assessed by the Court. Funds from civil penalties would then be disbursed into the Cyber Exploitation of Children Fund established to help state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and internet crimes against children.

Further, the bill allows the Attorney General to investigate an alleged violation against a business who publishes or distributes pornographic material to minors who have not submitted reasonable age verification.

State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) who serves as Chief Co-Sponsor on the legislation says, “We owe it to the kids and their parents to do what we can to create safeguards to protect them from the growing amount of inappropriate and sometimes horrific content that is currently easily available online to anyone of any age. This initiative goes hand-in-hand with our continued efforts to protect children from being exploited, including further work to crack down on human trafficking.”

Senator Harriss hopes to present the bill during the upcoming Fall Veto or Spring sessions.

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