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Texas introduces two bills aimed at forcing online age verification checks

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Two bills have been introduced in the Texas Legislature (in the Senate and the House) in order to make online publishers enforce an age verification system as a means of protecting minors against harmful content.

A similar law has recently been passed in Utah, applying to and affecting all users of social networks.

In Texas, Bills SB 2164 and HB 3585, the work of Senator Bryan Hughes and Representative Terri Leo-Wilson, seek to regulate the adult content space by amending the Business and Commerce Code, with what is referred to as “reasonable” age verification methods.

In the section of the proposed bills that deals with these methods, the lawmakers state that digital identifications refers to information stored on a digital network as proof of a user’s identity.

For now, access to the data should be made possible to commercial entities that distribute content on a site or social media that is “more than one third” sexual in nature. This is so that these publishers can verify their visitors’ age as being 18 or over.

The bill also states that once age verification has been done by a commercial entity, or a third party, they are not supposed to retain the personal information gathered in this way.

And this is how it works: the commercial entity, or a third party, will require that a visitor provides digital identification, or otherwise verify age via government ID, or “a commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transnational data to verify the age of an individual.”

A note is also made that this does not apply to “bona fide” news organizations, and “may not be construed” as affecting their rights.

Also, ISPs, search engines, cloud storage providers, etc. will not be considered liable under the law for providing access or connection, as the legislation aims to target the creators of content that is deemed as harmful to minors.

Meanwhile in Utah, a law to much the same effect has already been passed, making it the first US state that has mandated age identification for everyone using social media, with minors under 18 now requiring parental consent to get on these sites.

Critics are, however, warning that this might prove not only ineffective in protecting the said demographic, but also unconstitutional.

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