Tech Group Asks Georgia Governor to Veto Age Verification Bill

ATLANTA—NetChoice, a trade group representing large technology companies like Google and TikTok, submitted a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, asking that he veto a broad age verification proposal adopted by the Republican state legislature targeting social media networks and adult entertainment platforms.

"While there are many good ideas in this legislation, if implemented, it will create serious security vulnerabilities for Georgians and their families while violating the U.S. Constitution," said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, in a press statement regarding Senate Bill (SB) 351.

SB 351, the Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024, received its final approval by the state Senate last week, reports the Associated Press.

The House of Representatives voted on March 28 to advance SB 351, 120-45, and the Senate voted on March 29 to advance the bill to Gov. Kemp, 48-7.

The bill targets social media platforms and adult entertainment websites by requiring a digital ID card or government-issued ID. Companies that fail to comply would be found liable and could face fines. Rep. Rick Jasperse of Jasper, a far-right Republican, says he wants to shut down porn sites in Georgia, notes the Associated Press (AP).

“It will protect our children,” Jasperse told AP. AVN reported previously that Jasperse introduced House Bill (HB) 910, which was adopted overwhelmingly in the House on February 29. However, Republican leadership in both chambers shifted toward Senate Bill 351, which was introduced by Republican Sen. Jason Anavitarte.

Anavitarte, the Senate majority caucus chair, was the primary sponsor and lead proponent of the combined social media-porn targeting measure.

Gov. Kemp is likely to sign Senate Bill 351 into law. For NetChoice, this is a non-starter.

"Rather than copying flawed ideas from other states, policymakers should instead require schools to teach digital safety best practices and help to educate parents on technology use for their families’ unique needs in their own homes. We hope to work with Georgia lawmakers and Gov. Kemp on these important solutions," adds Szabo.

The letter sent to Gov. Kemp by NetChoice argues that SB 351 will not protect minors. Rather, it would cause more harm.

"By restricting access to valuable speech, requiring parental consent, and necessitating the collection of sensitive data, SB 351 would violate the Constitution and set up Georgians for significant security risks," the letter states. "Ultimately, Georgia would be better served by abandoning age-verification efforts for social media and instead pursuing legislative efforts to improve online literacy for minors and their parents."

Szabo and NetChoice's tactics are similar to the most recent efforts by adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition, which has asked Arizona's governor to veto an age verification measure there specifically targeting porn. 

Platforms hosting content made up by at least 33.3 percent of material considered "harmful to minors" or "pornographic" are subject to the Georgia bill. 

Obscene material in the Georgia bill is defined as including acts of sexual intercourse, "heterosexual or homosexual, normal or perverted, actual or simulated."

The Georgia bill is similar to Florida's age verification measure, House Bill 3, which broadly targets social media and pornography.