Bill requiring age verification to access adult content websites advances in legislature

March 27, 2024, 4:30 p.m. ·

Sen. Dave Murman's LB1092, which requires pornographic websites to verify the age of their users before providing obscene material, advanced through the first round of debate Wednesday. (Nebraska Public Media Archive Photo)

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The Nebraska Legislature advanced a bill Wednesday that would require individuals to verify they are 18 or older before accessing obscene material online.

LB1092, also known as the Online Age Verification Liability Act, prohibits pornography websites from showing material to individuals unless they confirm their age through a “reasonable age verification method,” such as a digital copy of a state ID.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dave Murman, said the bill is a way to protect Nebraska children from easy access to pornography.

“While it's currently federally illegal to show children pornography, it is rarely enforced,” Murman said. “Instead, the online pornography industry has virtually free rein to distribute content to children and we know they are doing so.”

Nine states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia, have recently passed similar legislation.

Murman said the Texas age verification law was successfully upheld in court.

“Because of this case, we should be clear,” he said. “States have an interest to protect minors from pornography and age verification is a reasonable and legal practice.”

Many of the bill’s critics said that kids can still access pornography by using other encrypted methods like virtual private networks, or VPNs, which allow the user to skirt state restrictions.

Sen. Carol Blood said LB1092 also presents privacy concerns.

“You're going to pass a bill celebrating how you made it harder for kids to get to paid porn sites, while opening up a giant door allowing Nebraskans who are adults to have their data stolen,” she said.

Blood says she would have liked to see a state data broker registry established before Murman’s bill passes.

“It's so much more important, I think, to emphasize parental responsibilities when it comes to kids and technologies, because that is a war that you can't win one bill at a time unless you start with a strong foundation like a data broker registry,” she said.

Blood also advocated for the creation of a technology committee to review bills in future legislative sessions.

After two days of debate, Murman’s bill was advanced to the next round on a 31-0 vote, with 15 senators present but not voting.

The vote fell largely along party lines, with a majority of Republicans voting in favor of the bill and most Democrats not voting.