In last year's legislative session, a new bill requiring age verification before a person can access online pornography was passed and signed into Louisiana law. Lisa Thompson, vice president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), tells AFN it is a step toward correcting a nonsensical situation.
"In the physical brick-and-mortar world, we have all these regulations and rules that we've established to try to protect children from exposure to things that we know will harm them," Thompson notes. "Yet we've allowed them unfettered access to that very same kind of content when it comes to pornography; we just open the door through the internet."
NCOSE points out that while U.S. law has long held that pornography must not be distributed to individuals under 18 years old, this principle has not been applied in the online world until January 1st. Now, porn providers could be held accountable if they intentionally or inadvertently violate HB 142 (now Act 440).
"So let's say, for instance, you have a grandchild, and they … get exposed to pornography online, and there's not been an age verification process," Thompson poses. "Then that pornography company could be held liable for that exposure. A civil lawsuit could be brought."
She recalls that when Congress passed legislation dealing with the issue in the 1990s, the porn industry filed a rash of lawsuits to halt enforcement. But in this case, constitutional attorneys say the Louisiana law is sound, and NCOSE hopes other states adopt it.