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Louisiana’s Anti-Online Porn Law Goes Into Effect

Louisiana is requiring id to access online porn, but it raises some tricky questions.

Louisiana is known as a place with a libertine streak. At least for outsiders, the image of openly imbibing, great food and even better music, along with Mardi Gras-fueled hedonism, comes to mind. However, as of January 1st, 2023, a new law has taken effect requiring age verification to access online porn in the state. 

Act 440, introduced by State Representative Laurie Schlegel and passed by the Republican legislator, was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in June. It requires any website “that knowingly and intentionally publishes or distributes material harmful to minors on the internet from a website that contains a substantial portion of such material shall be held liable if the entity fails to perform reasonable age verification” according to the law. 

Websites with more than 33.3 percent pornographic material have to adopt an age verification process to be accessed by IP addresses tied to the state of Louisiana. This vague definition begs the question of what is salacious enough to qualify. Would a photographer with artistic nudes fall under this statute? There are allowances for “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value,” and most likely, the courts will have to decide what that means. Perhaps they’re defaulting to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s opaque definition of obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” 

It’s also not entirely clear how enforcement will work, although there is a mechanism whereby citizens can sue websites failing to create safeguards.

Already Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek, the Luxemburg-based smut conglomerate and perhaps the world’s sleaziest company, has implemented AllPassThird, a third-party verification software for traffic coming from the state. The software connects to LA Wallet to verify a valid id. 

Not the same old fight

One of the more intriguing elements of the story is the identity of the groups that are now bringing porn back into the legislative crosshairs. It used to be that only very particular religious Christian groups in America made this their cause du Jour. However, increasingly alarm bells are sounding from disparate groups, including modern feminists, about the ubiquity of hardcore videos being consumed by children.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah introduced a bill last year to impose age verification at the Federal level, and France has passed a similar law

There are some vocal libertarians who seem to think there’s nothing wrong with minors watching porn beyond some hand-wringing about “consent” and the fact that porn is “unrealistic.” One increasingly finds this sentiment that porn isn’t inherently bad for kids openly expressed in various online circles that are libertarian, rationalist, or adjacent to those scenes.

These types are big mad about Louisiana’s anti-porn effort and the larger backlash to ubiquitous underage use of porn in general, declaring the whole thing a “moral panic” and raising a host of technical and privacy objections to the law without offering any alternatives for keeping porn away from kids.

In the absence of viable, good-faith alternatives for stopping kids from looking at online porn, we’ll take Louisiana’s something over their nothing. Even if it stops a few kids, it’s an improvement over the status quo.

Lots more where that came from.