SENATE TAKES AIM AT HARMFUL INTERNET CONTENT
(AUSTIN) — A Senate bill passed Tuesday intends to make it harder for children to access internet pornography by requiring users to verify their age. McKinney Senator Angela Paxton says that this content is especially malignant to the developing adolescent mind. "Children's development can be harmed when they view content from mainstream pornography websites," she said. "We heard heartbreaking, first-hand testimony of this when we heard this bill in the State Affairs Committee."
Her bill, SB 2021, would implement a requirement that any internet pornography site implement a robust age verification system, similar to ones used in other countries like Germany and other states like Louisiana. Stricter than the ubiquitous "click to verify age" splash pages, these systems rely on third-party ID verification services that require proof of age - usually a drivers license - and act as a much more rigorous barrier to minors when they try to access sites they shouldn't. And it's not just pornography to which children are exposed. Online sales of alcohol, gambling, cannabis, and other items restricted to adults can be found as well. "I think we can all agree that technology has been used to prey upon children," said Paxton. "SB 2021 intends to use technology to protect Texas children.”
Under the bill, acceptable third-party age verification services would have to rely on either a government issued ID or transaction history to prove a user is an adult. It also requires that these sites post warnings developed by the state health department about the detrimental physiological, social, emotional, and psychological impacts of viewing pornography, as well as prominently displaying the phone number for mental health and substance abuse hotlines.
Also Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would keep the popular social app TikTok off of any device owned or leased by the state of Texas. Launched in 2017, The video sharing platform quickly rose to become one of the most popular apps in the world with billions of users and billions of dollars in annual revenue. Forty-two percent of Americans are estimated to use the app.
Developed by the Chinese company ByteDance, concerns have been raised about security risks posed by the company's close ties to the Chinese government and how much user data the company shares with that government. "It's evident that based upon the links between ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party, it's appropriate that we take this action for our state and national security," said Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell. His bill, SB 1893, would ban the use of the app, or any app by the TikTok developer, on any phone, laptop, tablet, or other device owned by the state of Texas. Law enforcement agencies would be exempted, said Birdwell, because social media is increasingly used for criminal activity. It would also give the governor the authority to impose similar bans on other apps deemed to pose a similar security risk by executive order.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 19 at 11 a.m.