Age Verification Comes to Ohio
December 27, 2023
Age verification methods, purported to protect minors from viewing what is described as harmful material found online, are being proposed in states across the country. If these measures pass, they will impact minors and adults who will have to verify their age to access the Internet.
Let’s look at some of what we call “coded language” – words used in place of direct language to obscure the real outcome. For example, what do the politicians mean when they say “harmful content”? Essentially, they’re referring to Pornography. To be clear, these new laws aren’t intended to ban pornography but instead make accessing it much more difficult.
Another phrase that is often undefined is “age verification,” along with “age verification methods.”The meaning varies from state to state. What doesn’t vary is the goal and the real outcome. If these measures pass, users will have to provide some form of identification to verify that they are adults. That could be a state-issued identification uploaded to the platform or facial scanning to detect the user’s age. Age verification is not necessarily a bad thing, but the methods in which it is being enforced are an invasion of privacy.
In Ohio, Rep. Steve Demetriou (R) has introduced a similar age verification bill, House Bill 295 This bill is concerning because of the strict penalties that Rep. Demetriou is proposing. House Bill 295 would require highly sensitive and personal information to verify identity, including mortgage documents and educational and employment records.
If there is a failure on the side of the company, in this case, a website, to verify the age of a minor “accessing materials that are obscene or harmful to juveniles,” the company will be punished. The punishment varies depending on the severity of the crime. The harshest punishment carries a felony charge of 9 months to 3 years of prison time and a $10,000 fine. The offender will also be placed on the sex offender registry!
This kind of verification is a human rights violation. There is no doubt that the internet contains harmful material, but porn isn’t inherently harmful. Porn is something that individuals enjoy – it is a way to find enjoyment in our bodies. It contains acts of self-expression and embraces our sexuality. The way that these verification laws are being implemented is going to help kids, but they are not going to help adults. Adults will have to verify their age with some form of an important document, fingerprint, face scan, or other methods implemented – none of these should be online.
There is a lot to say about this bill. Similar legislation is spreading across the United States without consideration of the repercussions for privacy. Putting a form of state-issued identification online, whether that may be a driver’s license, mortgage documents, or a face scan, is unsettling. The internet is vast and insecure. Especially since there is no legislation to protect private information collected by online platforms, lawmakers should consider the privacy and security of personal data before passing legislation of this kind. The most important thing is to let your legislators know that you want them to protect the human right to privacy! If they are to go through with the age verification laws, legislation must be put in place to protect adults and their identification from being put online. Contact your local legislator either by letter or email and ask them to protect your privacy!