How child safety internet laws could affect us all

Critics warn that the laws are subversive tactics aimed at free speech

Computer keyboard with security
Laws aimed at protecting kids and teens online are getting backlash from free speech advocates
(Image credit: Peter Dazeley / Getty Images)

In an effort to address the alarming teen mental health crisis, many lawmakers have turned their eyes to regulating what they can access online. While the goal to protect young people is laudable, the laws have been stirring concern among critics who argue the laws are setting dangerous precedents that could affect the future of free speech online for everyone.

On the state level, Louisiana was the first to pass a law requiring age verification with IDs for sites that host adult content. Other states followed suit in approving similar laws. Though the rules are written to protect children, critics argue they also dissuade adults who prefer anonymity from using the sites. The stigma around pornography makes many people unwilling to have their picture and government name attached to viewing such sites. Opponents also argue the laws "threaten digital privacy" because there's no way to "ensure that websites don't retain user identification data," The Associated Press reported. Mindgeek, the operator of Pornhub and other adult content sites, has blocked access to its sites in Utah, Mississippi, Virginia, and, most recently, Arkansas in protest of these laws.

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Theara Coleman, The Week US

Theara Coleman has worked as a staff writer at The Week since September 2022. She frequently writes about technology, education, literature and general news. She was previously a contributing writer and assistant editor at Honeysuckle Magazine, where she covered racial politics and cannabis industry news.