Irish Senator's Age Verification Bill Aims at U.S.-Style Chilling Effect on Porn

Irish Senator's Age Verification Bill Aims at U.S.-Style Chilling Effect on Porn

DUBLIN — The Senate of the Republic of Ireland — known by its Gaelic name Seanad Éireann — has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to debate the country’s proposed Protection of Children (Online Age Verification) Bill.

Senator Rónán Mullen introduced the legislation earlier this month, and it is now scheduled for a second reading.

The bill is co-sponsored by fellow Independent Senators Michael McDowell, Sharon Keogan and Gerard Craughwell, and three Government Senators, Fianna Fáil’s Erin McGreehan, Diarmuid Wilson and Aidan Davitt, the Irish Gript news site reported.

Mullen claimed that his bill, which replicates the language of similar measures drafted by U.S. and U.K. anti-porn crusaders, is needed to address “widespread public concern about the proliferation of pornographic material freely available on the internet, and about the damage that this can do to children and their families.”

Mullen specifically cited U.S. states’ age verification laws and hailed as a victory the fact that their imprecise language, which has already had a chilling effect on free speech, led porn companies like Pornhub to stop providing services in those states.

Mullen’s proposal “establishes an obligation on internet service providers and app store services to ensure that persons under 18 shall not be able to access pornographic material online,” the Gript report explained. “Website controllers and app store service providers putting up pornographic material must require users to go through an age verification process, and the bill provides that the Minister for Media may prescribe a list or class of documents that can be acceptable for that purpose.”

The bill makes platforms and app stores liable if they fail to implement age verification, unless they can prove that a user attempted to bypass the process.

According to the bill, those services will have to store the age verification data they collect for five years. The bill also states that the data may be accessed for legal proceedings.

Mullen urged people, “especially but not exclusively concerned parents, to contact the Government and other parties and ask them to support this bill.”

Main Image: Irish Senator Rónán Mullen

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