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Minutes for HB2592 - Committee on Judiciary

Short Title

Requiring the use of age-verification technology to permit access to internet websites containing material that is harmful to minors.

Minutes Content for Wed, Feb 7, 2024

Chairperson Humphries opened the meeting on HB2592 and told conferees that their testimony would be limited to 5 minutes.

Natalie Scott provided an overview of HB2592. She stood for questions. (Attachment 1)

Proponent

Brittany Jones stated that as the internet has grown so has access to material that is deemed harmful to children. Likewise, the availability and use of age gated technology has increased. There is a growing consensus that we cannot continue to allow children unfettered access to the internet when studies have shown this material is harmful to them. Ms. Jones said that pornography harms developing minds. Much like tobacco or other controlled products, pornography's harmful impacts are even more harmful on young minds and should properly be age gated. Because these harms have become so pervasive in our culture, age verification laws are seeing a resurgence. The technology has changed significantly since legislatures first tried to pass age verification laws in the early 2000's and the internet is much more invasive than it was then. (Attachment 2)

Iain Corby stated they are the global trade body representing over 25 suppliers of age verification and age estimation technology. Age Assurance is a rapidly growing field as legislators around the world have determined they must do more to protect children from online harms, and to do so, it is first necessary to know which users are minors and which are adults. Age assurance is the foundation of a safer internet for kids. The essence of age verification is proving your age online without disclosing your identity. (Attachment 3)

Joseph Kohm stated that with the rise of technology, minors have nearly unlimited access to adult websites many of which contain inappropriate and pornographic material. Mr. Kohm shared some statistics and studies to illustrate this point with the references cited in his written testimony. He said this bill ensures parental involvement in children's internet consumption while restoring parental rights in the state of Kansas and sanctions companies that fail to implement and uphold these age verification requirements. (Attachment 4)

Chuck Weber said there are reams of empirical data demonstrating the very real dangers of pornography consumption, particularly when done by children. While parents are the first and best defenders of their children, society also has an obligation to protect the family. Mr. Weber highlighted one section from a resolution that passed the Kansas House of Representatives in 2017 that he said is relevant to our efforts here today: "...we recognize the need for additional education, prevention, research and policy change at the community and societal levels, and we urge this chamber and other governing bodies to take appropriate steps to ensure progress is made." (Attachment 5)

The proponents stood for questions.

Neutral

Daniel Cochrane said the proliferation of sexual material online is fueling a crisis of child pornography addiction, mental health, and concerning behavioral patterns. While accessing pornographic material once required visiting a physical store or acquiring a print magazine, today far worse content is just clicks away for millions of children. He shared three key takeaways: the severity of the threat to children brought on by the tech-fueled porn epidemic necessitates action, relying solely on filters is insufficient for addressing the harm to kids, and age verification is both effective and possible to implement without surrendering privacy. He said it is time for commonsense to prevail and for lawmakers to require platforms that host or create explicit content to implement age verification. Mr. Cochrane stood for questions. (Attachment 6)

Proponent Written Only Testimony

Katie Scarlett Calcutt, Mother of 8 & Constituent (Attachment 7)

Kevin Vance Ph.D., Director of the center for Constitutional Liberty, Benedictine College (Attachment 8)

Erin Henninger, Private Citizen (Attachment 9)

S.D., Private Citizen (Attachment 10)

Opponent

Justin Hill testified on behalf of Carl Szabo. Mr. Hill said he things we are here because parents have abdicated their authority - to give a child a device and have free reign on it is not great and it is more difficult these days given there is so much on the internet. Mr. Hill stated they have had good talks with the proponents but they are opposing this bill due to the constitutional concerns they have. They provided a few simple amendments to the committee and to the proponents to make a few minor tweaks to the bill because they know those amendments pass constitutional muster. He said they are not opposed to ID verification, but they want to make sure the bill matches those bills around the country that pass constitutional muster. Mr. Hill stood for questions. (Attachm ent 11)

Opponent Written Only Testimony

John Idoux, Governmental Affairs & Public Policy Director. Brightspeed (Attachment 12)

Chairperson Humphries closed the hearing on HB2592.