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Bill requiring age validation to enter adult websites clears Delaware House

Delaware Legislative Hall
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Legislative Hall

A bill that would require entities that knowingly provide pornography and material harmful to minors on the internet to conduct age verification passes the Delaware House, despite wavering Democratic support.

The bill’s sponsor State Rep. Michael Smith (R-Newark) explains the bill would create a more robust verification system compared to the popup box asking you to simply check a box if you are over the age of 18.

“What this does is create an age verification process, so through your passport, through your state ID, you would have to upload that and that would then make an entrance point," Smith said.

Any commercial entity that violates the new law will be subject to a civil penalty of $250 and liability for damages resulting from a minor’s access to such material and reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Smith says in most other states where similar legislation has passed, websites that administer adult content have stopped operating in that state all together.

While the bill largely garnered support, five Democrats voted against it, citing privacy concerns in the event that verification companies sell the sensitive data, as well as potential for extortion, lawsuits and worries of which sites would be included under the bill.

"Legislation such as this can be and has been used to target sites for sex education, for information for woman about terminating pregnancies and especially of concern to me, and especially on today of all days, members of the LGBTQ+ community," State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Glasgow) said.

The Free Speech Coalition, representing the adult entertainment industry, has been considering contesting a similar law in Virginia, having already opposed similar age verification laws in Louisiana and Utah.

Smith says the bill is modeled after states where similar legislation has been upheld or not challenged in court all together.

After some debate, the bill ultimately passed and heads to the Senate for a full vote.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.