California Republicans, Democrats Send Controversial Age Verification Bill to Senate

California Republicans, Democrats Send Controversial Age Verification Bill to Senate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California legislature’s version of the age verification bills being sponsored around the country by anti-porn activists passed unanimously in the state Assembly on Thursday with bipartisan support, and is now being considered by the state Senate.

As XBIZ reported, AB 3080 was introduced by Republican Assemblymember Juan Alanis, a former police officer from Modesto, and would require all adult websites to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that only adults can view them.

Alanis told the Assembly that the bill aimed to “protect children.”

“We know there are serious negative effects on young people who are exposed to this type of material, who regularly consume it, and who become addicted to it at far too young of an age,” Alanis said.

According to a report in the Modesto-area Turlock Journal, “When presented with privacy and free speech concerns, the Assemblymember pointed to the most recent decision from the Supreme Court denying an emergency stay against a much broader and restrictive Texas age-verification law, which was recently upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Alanis failed to point out that the Supreme Court has previously rebuked the notoriously conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, a staunchly conservative court, for eccentric, politicized rulings. Appeals to Alanis’ bill, if it becomes law, would be handled by the 9th Circuit. The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will weigh in on the constitutionality of the Texas law.

A California-Flavored Age Verification Bill

“I understand that California is different from other states, and may not benefit from a one-size-fits all legislation,” Alanis told the Assembly. “I believe California requires its own approach which upholds our values and diversity. That is why I have promised my colleagues to continue working on this bill to ensure protections for the LGBTQ+ community and will work to further address privacy concerns.” 

According to local press reports, Alanis “has pledged to continue working in good faith with opposition groups in an attempt to craft a final piece of legislation that is a good fit for California.”

“I am very serious about working with the opposition to find consensus if possible,” Alanis said at the time of the Assembly vote. “We will be holding serious working meetings with them as soon as next week. However, doing nothing on this issue and allowing the status quo to continue is unacceptable.”

Alanis also stated that he has “no desire to harm the adult entertainment industry or those who work in it.”

The Free Speech Coalition held “constructive conversations” with Alanis, the group’s Executive Director Alison Boden told XBIZ.

“We hope that he will take seriously the data we have presented about the dangers of website-based age verification and its serious downstream harms to both children and adults,” Boden noted. “I have presented the assemblymember with several proposals that would accomplish his stated goals — protecting children without harming the adult industry — and I look forward to continuing the dialogue. At this time, we remain in opposition to the bill and will mobilize against any further progression.”

Cumbersome and Invasive ID Requirements

As XBIZ reported, Boden testified last month before the California Assembly Judiciary Committee in opposition to AB 3080.

Boden told legislators that Alanis’ bill will not survive judicial review and that it is “completely impractical for Californians to verify their age multiple times on individual websites rather than doing it once on their device.”

Boden also noted that in the 16 months that the current slew of age verification bills have been in effect in other states, we have learned that available online age verification methods “are so cumbersome and invasive that consumers refuse to undergo the process. For example, verifying using government ID is so complicated that it took one reporter 52 steps to complete. Facial age estimation requires giving the entity conducting the verification access to your computer’s webcam or phone’s camera, which might be why fewer than 1% of users actually complete the process.”

Data shows that what users do instead, she added, is “hit the back button and find a site that doesn’t comply with the law.”

“We need to protect children online, not send adults to dangerous websites with illegal content,” Boden concluded.

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