On Saturday July 1, Mississippi and Virginia‘s laws requiring age verification for sites hosting adult content will take effect. Sites that do not age-verify users as prescribed by the law will be liable for civil suits should a minor access — and be harmed by — content on the site.
Mississippi defines content “harmful to minors” similarly to other states.
Despite prescribing the use of a digitized identification card as a means of verifying a user’s age, Mississippi’s mobile id provider does not does not offer website operators the functionality to remotely validate IDs. The law also allows for use of a commercial provider that verifies age using government identification documents or ”transactional data.”
Oddly, Virginia’s law defines material “harmful to minors” differently than most states. It includes non-opaque clothing and ”sadomasochistic abuse.”
Virginia’s law is extremely vague regarding the methods sites can use to comply. It allows for “a commercially available database that is regularly used by businesses or governmental entities for the purpose of age and identity verification” or “another commercially reasonable method of age and identity verification”.
What to Do
While we’re looking at potential challenges to these laws, everyone’s risk tolerance is different. There are several options for website operators subject to AVS mandates.
Ditch the Old Age Gate
For those with low risk tolerance, it might make sense to onboard the AVS provider of your choice — Yoti and VerifyMy are both members of FSC. Others might move toward keeping explicit content behind a paywall, which won’t entirely protect them but will likely reduce the chance that a minor can access their content.
Divert Traffic from States with AVS Laws
If you decide that blocking traffic is the right approach for your site, Free Speech Coalition has created a site that you can redirect users from those states to that explains why they’re being blocked and encourages them to contact their legislators. For more information, check out https://www.DefendOnlinePrivacy.com.
Call Your Lawyer
For those with higher risk tolerance, the fact that no private suits have been filed in Louisiana or Utah so far may be enough. FSC always advises consulting with your legal advisors on questions like these.
While we cannot tell you precisely what’s right for your business, we will continue to keep you informed. For a complete list of when AVS legislation is set to go into effect, please view our AVS Mandate Effective Dates Calendar.