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Virginia and Arkansas in US moving age verification bills closer to reality

Virginia and Arkansas in US moving age verification bills closer to reality

Another pair of U.S. states are debating laws designed to require proof of age before someone can enter a site with some amount of content considered harmful to minors.

Arkansas and Virginia are following Louisiana, which enacted a similar age verification law earlier this year.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit association and government watchdog advocating for civil liberties online, has responded to the trend by saying anonymity online is disappearing.

Virginia’s legislation is a signature away from being law while the Arkansas bill has passed the Senate and House. After reconciliation between the two chambers, which is considered a formality, it, too, will go to the governor for a final signature.

Virginian ages would have to be proven using a digital or physical government ID or an age verification service rated at least ID assurance level 2, according to the regional news publisher the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. IAL2 can include biometrics, but does not require them.

Age verification would be required for any site that is more than one-third harmful to minors (in these cases under the age of 18 years) and that is owned by a business located in Arkansas. What qualifies as harmful is spelled out in the bill but is generally defined as content that lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value for minors.

The bill passed the Senate 77-4 with 14 politicians voting “present.”

The Virginia legislation passed with similarly lopsided votes, according to regional news publisher the Virginia Mercury.

Again, would-be viewers would have to show their government ID, biometrics or a positive result using a commercial age verification application.

Civil liberty arguments aside, the laws require states or companies acting for the state to collect and verify personally identifiable information including face scans, and that has upset people beyond the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Virginia’ Sen. Bill Stanley has said age verification for businesses is easy. Other proponents of the bill have said personal information does not need to be held by a business involved in a verification transaction.

And, said Stanley, “I’m pretty confident that it will not put users’ personal information at risk.”

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