North Carolina Republican Suggests Adult Sites Age-Verify by Providing 'Free Memberships'

North Carolina Republican Suggests Adult Sites Age-Verify by Providing 'Free Memberships'

RALEIGH, N.C. — Rep. Jon Hardister, one of the main backers of the North Carolina age verification law that resulted in several adult sites — including Pornhub — disabling access in the state, suggested in an interview published Monday that the sites could comply with the law without blocking all adults’ access, by providing some form of free membership that would verify a user’s identity and age.

Hardister made the comment in an interview with the North Carolina State University newspaper Technician, as part of a report on how the Pornography Age Verification Enforcement (PAVE) Act, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper in September, has affected access to adult material in the state.

Since the law went into effect Jan. 1, North Carolinians have been required to verify their age in order to access pornographic websites. 

As XBIZ reported, the PAVE Act was passed after a campaign by religious conservative activists and legislators, which resulted in the age verification requirements being added to an unrelated education bill.

In late September, Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) snuck the copycat amendment mirroring other states’ age verification requirements into HB 8, which originally only addressed computer science requirements in North Carolina’s high schools. 

Galey justified her amendment by saying the measure was needed “to protect our children,” citing the seven other states that had passed similar laws and noting with satisfaction that overall traffic to adult websites in Louisiana dropped 80% after that state’s age verification law passed.

The NC Values Coalition, a powerful religious conservative group led by veteran GOP culture war crusaders, strongly endorsed PAVE and released a statement celebrating its passage, which mischaracterized all adult content as illegal “obscenity.”

Hardister, who was the deputy majority whip in the House and a vocal champion of PAVE, told Technician, “The intent was not to shut them down, but to protect kids.”

The student newspaper asked Hardister about “the addition of identification walls to adult entertainment sites and how to ensure adults still have access to them.”

According to Technician, the Republican state legislator — who has no known background on internet moderation, and little pre-politics work experience outside of marketing duties for his parents' mortgage and loans business — “sees accounts for adults as the workaround for verifying a user’s age every time he or she accesses a site.”

Hardister told the student newspaper, “There could be a way to create a membership in a way that’s free. The bill is not intended to keep adults off.”

Hardister added that he “does not believe privacy is a significant concern,” Technician reported.

“You’re always going to have concerns about data collection — they can do that currently,” Hardister said. “That’s why we wrote into the bill that the companies keep that data private.”

Leaving People in the Dark About Sex

Industry attorney Corey Silverstein told XBIZ last month, “In essence, PAVE is another copycat law that started with Louisiana. I still believe that once anyone actually tries to enforce this law, there will be a constitutional battle as to its validity. In my opinion, this law is unconstitutional and runs afoul of established case law. However, politicians seem more interested in making their conservative voter bases happy than upholding the Constitution that they swore to protect.”

Fellow industry attorney Lawrence Walters, of Walters Law Group, echoed Silverstein, calling PAVE “another copycat law allowing enforcement through private civil suits. The law contains all of the same constitutional defects as the previous bills and laws on which it is based.”

Kama Kosenko, an NCSU associate professor of communication with a specialty in sexual communication, told Technician she believes PAVE “will reduce the sense of understanding of the human body amongst minors and teenagers.”

“Trying to regulate another source of information about sex in the form of porn is just going to leave young people more and more in the dark about their bodies,” Kosenko added.

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