NetChoice Files Lawsuit Challenging Mississippi AV Law

JACKSON, Minn.—NetChoice, a tech industry trade group, is the latest organization to sue a state government over age verification laws.

The group—which represents firms like Google, Meta Platforms, Amazon, X and others—filed a lawsuit Friday in federal district court over Mississippi House Bill (HB) 1126, which regulates all digital service providers and social media networks by requiring minors to have parental permission to use the services.

HB 1126 was adopted by the state legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. The Republican Party also controls the Mississippi state legislature. 

It is a broad law that covers virtually everything on the internet other than pornography. It requires a platform like Facebook to verify the age of the parent through a government identification or by other means to confirm that the user, identified as a minor, is granted permission to use the platform. On top of that, the platform is required to limit the collection of data on minors while ensuring an age-appropriate user experience is offered.

NetChoice sued Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a conservative Republican, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to block the law from entering force.

“NetChoice is suing Mississippi to keep online communication safe and free and to ensure parents—not politicians—are in the driver’s seat for making decisions about what’s best for their family,” said Chris Marchese, the director of the group's litigation center, in a press statement. "HB 1126 conditions Mississippians’ access to protected speech on handing over their sensitive, personal data.

"While violating the First Amendment, this also jeopardizes the security of all Mississippians, especially minors, by requiring them to surrender sensitive, personal information and creates a new target for hackers and other criminals to exploit," added Marchese in the statement. HB 1126 should not be confused with Mississippi Senate Bill (SB) 2346, adopted during the 2023 legislative session. AVN reported last summer that state lawmakers adopted Louisiana-style age verification targeting adult entertainment platforms. Aylo, the parent company of Pornhub, ended up geo-blocking all of Mississippi, among other states, for implementing such laws.

Since then, age verification laws have been litigated by not only NetChoice but adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC). FSC most recently filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Indiana alongside the parent companies of some of the largest adult tube sites in the world. The lawsuit names Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, in a bid to block the state's new age verification law targeting adult platforms. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, also a Republican, signed Senate Bill 17 on March 13, along with other bills. See AVN's previous coverage of SB 17 here

The Free Speech Coalition also filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Montana to a potentially favorable jurisdiction. The coalition also has a pending petition before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging age verification laws in Texas.

Though the various cases challenging age verification laws throughout the federal judicial system come from disparate sectors, the consensus remains that such laws violate the First Amendment rights of users.