(LifeSiteNews) — It has taken a near-total takeover of young minds by the digital porn industry to wake legislators up, but the herd is finally beginning to move. In the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing pressure from Tory MPs to toughen the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, which will require all porn sites to implement age verification systems within six months of the bill becoming law—new amendments likely to be debated this month will require sites to use the same verification process (uploading ID or credit card) as online gambling.
James Bethell, a Conservative peer in the House of Lords, made no bones about it: “What we need is an emphatic timetable and clear cut commitment to hard-gated mandatory age verification. The current provisions are a kumbaya aspiration that leaves open too many loopholes, no enforcement and no timetable.”
Across the Atlantic, lawmakers are making similar noises. Sixteen U.S. states have declared pornography a public health crisis including Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
Louisiana, meanwhile, has actually enacted an age verification bill. HB 142 requires age verification any site containing 33.3% or more of pornographic material, and if sites fail to implement meaningful systems, people could sue the porn company if a child achieved access.
State legislator Laurie Schlegel, who deals with patients who struggle with sex addiction, believes this is a much-needed first step. “Pornography is destroying our children and they’re getting unlimited access to it on the internet and so if the pornography companies aren’t going to be responsible, I thought we need to go ahead and hold them accountable,” she said. “Someone could sue on behalf of their child; they can sue if children are getting access to pornography. So, it would be up to the user to sue the company for not verifying age first. It’s tied to some of the biggest societal ills of human trafficking and sexual assault. And in my own practice, the youngest we’ve ever seen is an 8-year-old.”
Senator Mike Lee has recently proposed action on the federal level, putting forward a bill in December that could redefine obscenity under the Communications Act of 1934 to include pornographic content. The porn industry immediately expressed concern that this could eliminate much of their content, which is yet another reason Lee’s proposal should be considered and adopted. The price of “freedom of speech” for the porn industry is the freedom and innocence of generations of children, and destroying the smut peddlers’ ability to sell videos of women being degraded is a bonus, not a cost.
Other states are looking to follow Louisiana’s lead. Both Arkansas and Utah are considering legislation to protect minors from pornography. Arkansas’s proposal would demand age verification and make companies that do not implement meaningful systems liable for damages caused to children. The bill would target businesses that “knowingly and intentionally publishes or distributes material that may be harmful to minors on the internet from a website that contains a substantial portion of material that may be harmful to minors.” Critics complain that this casts the net wide; that’s the point. Utah’s proposed restrictions include social media.
California is also considering a content moderation bill; so are Minnesota and Tennessee, with both states looking to limit the ability of social media companies to target children. Australia is also working to create meaningful age verification. It is no longer just social conservatives who recognize the poisonous impacts of digital pornography; the scientific evidence is overwhelming, and secular legislators are recognizing that a generation is being weaned on sexual brutality. The damage done by the porn industry to our social bonds is incalculable. I hope this trend accelerates, because it is a badly-needed first step.