California Lawmakers Hand Porn Industry Huge Victory After Watering Down Age Verification Bill

The California Senate Judiciary Committee proposed making ID verification optional for pornography websites in new amendments to the state’s age verification bill, according to the bill analysis released Tuesday.

The committee proposed amendments to the Parent’s Accountability and Child Protection Act (PACPA) that made proof-of-age methods like providing a government ID or a credit card on pornography websites only an option, allowing companies to instead use other methods like “metadata or response headers identifying the product as sexually explicit,” according to the analysis. The bill was introduced in February by Republican state Assemblyman Juan Alanis and requires businesses that provide products “illegal to make available to minors” take “reasonable steps” to make sure that users are legal.

“Our office had a choice to accept amendments or risk failure of the bill in committee,” Alanis told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “I made the choice to move forward with the amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee because I strongly believe something is better than nothing. Also as a former crimes against children detective, doing nothing on this issue is unacceptable to me.”

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a pornography industry trade organization, retracted its initial opposition in the wake of the new amendments, according to its Tuesday press release.

“For years, our members have used metatags and other methods to alert parental filters that we are adult sites, and to allow them to more easily block us. But there are thousands and thousands of sites, many pirate sites or sites overseas, that don’t,” FSC director of public policy Mike Stabile told the DCNF. “The amendment to AB 3080 was engineered to encourage compliance, and to ensure that more sites are blocked. Parental filters remain the most effective method of preventing minors from accessing adult sites. They aren’t perfect, but they’re far more effective than ID-based verification, and contain far fewer privacy risks.”

Critics of the amendments point out how pornography websites “already adhere to these provisions on a voluntary basis,” according to a press release from California Family Council (CFC).

“The amendments proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee have gutted AB 3080, rendering it ineffective,” CFC Vice President Greg Burt said. “By making age verification optional, the Committee has bowed to the demands of the pornographic industry rather than protecting our children.”

The FSC has been fighting age verification laws across the nation, taking up lawsuits in Indiana, Montana, Utah, Louisiana and Texas according to its website. The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up the Texas case for review.

“We disagree with anyone who would characterize this legislation as doing nothing to protect kids from pornographic material. California has a Democrat super majority controlled Legislature. To pass legislation, a Republican bill author has to receive a significant number of Democratic votes in order to move legislation,” Alanis said. “While this bill is not all we would have hoped to achieve when we started out, we do believe this remains a comprehensive step forward on this issue. The fact is, everyone got something and no one got everything they wanted in this bill. This bill still has to face a full vote in the Senate and come back for a final full vote in the Assembly before potentially heading to the Governor’s desk.”

Republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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