Age Verification Legislation Proposed in West Virginia & Idaho

CHARLESTON, W.Va./BOISE, Idaho—Conservative lawmakers in West Virginia and Idaho have introduced yet another round of bills that would significantly restrict access to pornographic content. 

In West Virginia, the state House of Delegates, controlled by the Republican Party, has advanced a bill that is technically a "copycat" proposal to what was introduced and adopted in states like Louisiana, Montana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah, North Carolina and neighboring Virginia. Aylo Holdings, the parent company of adult tube site, geo-blocked several of these states.

The proposal, House Bill (HB) 4867, was introduced by Del. Geno Chiarelli, a freshman Republican lawmaker with ties to hard-right Catholicism. HB 4867 is meant to prevent minors from accessing content that is age-restricted.

Del. Chiarelli said that the standard these companies will be held to for verification is whether material that is "harmful to minors" makes up a "substantial portion" of content published on a website or 33 percent of the overall content. Language in the bill also provides for "reasonable age verification methods." Virginia's porn age verification measure has been found to not be working.

House Bill 4867 has advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee and is set to be read before the committee of the whole.

Out west in Idaho, both age verification legislation and porn filtering legislation are on the docket. Republican state Reps. Elaine Price and Julianne Young proposed legislation that would permit private individuals to sue adult content "creators" who do not take "reasonable steps" to verify the age of their users. A local NPR affiliate reports that the legislation is considered broad on that term.
Republican Sen. Kevin Cook has reintroduced legislation that would require mobile device manufacturers and retailers to enable the pre-installed parental controls on devices that could be used by minors, regardless of who actually owns the device in question.
Cook introduced legislation last year that was narrowly killed due to a private civil cause of action. Sen. Cook has redrafted the bill, he says, indicating that it is more palatable. However, this type of legislation is likely to face a variety of constitutional challenges.
Utah is one of a few states in the union to have laws on the books requiring mobile devices to require parental controls turned on at the point of sale. Cell phone service providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, lobbied against these proposals on claims that such a law infringes on the First Amendment rights of firms and device users and interstate commerce, which is regulated by the U.S. Congress.