Hearing Coverage: Amendment, Advancement of Calif. AV Bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Assembly Bill (AB) 3080 advanced through the California Assembly's Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee Tuesday and is now heading for a review by the Judiciary Committee.

Concerns over the legality and constitutionality of the bill are expected to be tackled in greater depth in the Judiciary Committee.

Free Speech Coalition (FSC) executive director Alison Boden testified against AB 3080, introduced by Republican state Asm. Juan Alanis, during the hearing. During the committee, AB 3080 was amended to drawback certain language that was presented as too broad. An initial version of the bill considered material that was "harmful to minors" as content that is both obscene to minors and viewed as "indecent."

There is a legal difference between obscenity and indecency. Bill drafters redefined indecency and completely reshaped the bill to be more specific, according to the committee hearing's archival material viewed by AVN.

“This is a terribly flawed bill that never should have advanced out of committee, especially not one focused on consumer privacy,” said Boden. “If we’re going to defeat these dangerous, unconstitutional bills, we’re going to need to be there to make sure all of our voices are heard. We have a strong base in this state, and we need all Californians to reach out to their legislators to let them know the issues with AB 3080.”

She additionally characterized that there is a difference between having a government ID check for buying a beer at a bodega versus a protected speech concept of viewing pornography. Several committee members appeared confused about the technological concepts necessary to better understand the bill versus the potential First Amendment implications.

"This is not the same as flashing your ID to buy beer," testified Boden. "It is transmitting highly sensitive and valuable information over the internet."

Other organizations that expressed opposition include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, NetChoice, and the grassroots citizen group Oakland Privacy. 

Groups that announced support were primarily far-right religious groups, like the Family Policy Alliance (FPA) and Concerned Women for America. Both groups oppose same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ rights, and pornography.

Age Verification Providers Association (AVPA) executive director Iain Corby testified in person to support the bill. 

“We were pleased to help California Assembly members understand the capabilities of cryptographic 'double-blind' age assurance solutions through the application of privacy-enhancing technologies," Corby told AVN, referring to his explanations to members of the committee who asked how California lawmakers and regulators can emulate data protection authorities when it comes to age assurance data retention concerns.
During the hearing, Corby pointed to the French government's Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) recommendation for a "double-blind" approach to age verification data retention.
In 2022, CNIL recommended and eventually developed the means to make it impossible for both the website and the age assurance software provider to know the actual user's identity. This is a similar standard adopted by the Spanish data protection regulator Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD).
AVN reported in December 2023 on AEPD's requirements for a digital identification standard for adults to access pornography.
"The age verification industry’s move to enable device-based architecture also answers calls for this from the adult industry," Corby said, pointing to approaches considered by adult entertainment companies like Pornhub's corporate parent, Montreal-based Aylo, and the Free Speech Coalition itself.
"If there are further concerns about privacy, accuracy, or security, we will happily consider how we can continue to refine industry standards to address them,” Corby concluded. 

Corby, who once told AVN that he and his group want to collaborate with the Free Speech Coalition and adult industry stakeholders on adopting equitable child protection legislation, has sided with various far-right groups, including the FPA, in backing these bills. 

FPA is the lobbying arm of the Colorado-based fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family, which is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group.

AVPA and FSC have previously clashed on VPN usage.

AVN previously reported that AB 3080 is model legislation circulated by the Christian nationalist Center for Renewing America. The center is affiliated with the Heritage Foundation-led Project 2025 initiative that wants to see pornography outlawed and "pornographers" imprisoned. Note, per AVN's previous coverage on Project 2025, "pornography" to these groups includes content that deals with LGBTQ+ subject matter.

The Free Speech Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on its lawsuit filed against the state of Texas for its age verification law, a point Boden mentioned during her testimony.