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Georgia Proposes ID Verification for Website Access

Proposed legislation would require users of some websites to submit personal identification before gaining access to sites that contain “material harmful to minors,” focusing on sexual activity.

The latest iteration of a Georgia House bill looks to follow the lead of states like Mississippi and Virginia and require users of certain websites to submit personal identification — such as a driver's license — before accessing them.

House Bill 910 cleared a House vote 165-1 on Feb. 29, with a Senate reading taking place on March 4. As of March 8, the bill was pending further review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly session on Jan. 10. All six of its sponsors are Republicans, including District 2 Rep. Steve Tarvin of Chickamauga.

"Before allowing access to a public website that contains a substantial portion of material that is harmful to minors, a commercial entity shall use a reasonable age verification method," the text of the engrossed bill reads. "A commercial entity that violates this code section is liable to an individual for damages resulting from a minor accessing material harmful to minors, including court costs and reasonable attorney's fees as ordered by the court."

The latest iteration of the bill lays out a multi-pronged list of elements deemed "material harmful to minors."

The bill text would be applicable to not only actual displays and depictions of sexual activity, but also "simulated" or "animated" depictions — pending said material is in "a manner patently offensive with respect to minors."

Other portions of the subsection lift elements of the Supreme Court of the United States holding Miller v. California from the 1970s, including the so-called "SLAPS test" for determining whether or not material is obscene.

The wrinkle with HB 910, however, is that it rephrases the terminology to denote "the material taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors" and not a general population.

One of the more specific aspects of the bill is a condition that age verification is only required for websites where more than 33.33 percent of all material on said websites are deemed harmful to minors.

Under the bill, the age verification methods would have to meet or exceed the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Identity Assurance Level 2 standard.

Specifically mentioned in the bill text is "digitized identification cards," described as "a data file available on a mobile device with connectivity to the internet that contains all of the data elements visible on the face and back of a driver's license or identification card."

Third parties and commercial entities would not be allowed to retain "any identifying information" on individuals who submit materials as part of age verification processes.

"An internet service provider and any affiliate, subsidiary or search engine shall not be considered to have violated this code section solely by providing access or connection to or from a public website or to other information or content on the internet or on a facility, system or network that is not under that internet service provider's control," the bill language reads.

Under the bill, commercial entities that violate the proposed code revision would be subject to fines as steep as $10,000 per violation.

"The attorney general or solicitor general or district attorney having jurisdiction shall institute proceedings to impose such fine within one year of the violation," the bill text reads.

(c)2024 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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