North Carolina Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Age Verification for Sites with Explicit Content

RALEIGH — In a busy week where lawmakers devoted extensive hours to pass various proposals and a state budget, North Carolina's legislature has approved a bill that mandates age verification on websites featuring material deemed harmful to minors.

This bipartisan legislation successfully passed through both the Senate and the House on Thursday, securing significant support from both sides of the aisle. The bill mandates that any company deliberately disseminating sexually explicit content must confirm that viewers are at least 18 years old by utilizing a commercially available database.

The bill now awaits the decision of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who holds the power to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to take effect without his signature. Given the substantial bipartisan backing, it appears likely that the bill will become law.

Under the provisions of the bill, companies are prohibited from retaining any identifying information about an individual once they have been granted access to the website.

Moreover, the legislation empowers parents of minors to take legal action against companies that breach the law by permitting their children to access sexually explicit material. Additionally, adults whose personal information is stored by such websites also have grounds to pursue legal action.

It is worth noting that similar age verification requirements implemented by other state legislatures have produced mixed outcomes in court. A federal judge recently invalidated a Texas law necessitating age verification and health warnings for viewing pornographic websites, citing concerns about free speech rights and the law's overbroad and vague nature.

In contrast, Utah's age verification law for adult websites remains in effect after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. The judge highlighted that the law does not compel the state to pursue or prosecute adult websites but empowers Utah residents to initiate legal action and seek damages.

State Senator Amy Galey, a Republican representing Alamance County and the sponsor of the North Carolina proposal, underscored the importance of age verification as a tool to protect children online. During a floor debate, Galey emphasized that parents throughout the state employ various methods to safeguard their children from online threats, and this legislation offers another critical means to enhance child safety.