Ohio House Representative Steve Demetriou has introduced an extraordinarily repressive House Bill (HB) 295. Dubbed the Innocence Actwould implement an age verification requirement similar to what has already been implemented in other states. However this
bill goes way beyond other is that it introduces criminal penalties for websites that don't comply and misdemeanor penalties for any internet user who tries to circumvent age verification, eg by using VPNs.
In its current form, companies and
webmasters who don't implement reasonable age verification methods could be subject to criminal charges -- a third-degree felony. No other proposed and implemented age verification regulation in the country has such punitive criminal penalties. Corey
Silverstein, a First Amendment attorney, commented:
VPNs are available on most mobile devices through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. They are also free or relatively inexpensive. And, to think that a 17-year-old
high school student can't learn about and effectively deploy a VPN is short-sighted. I can't think of a worse idea than charging minors with criminal offenses for viewing adult content and potentially ruining their futures. Attempting to shame and
embarrass minors for viewing adult-themed content goes so far beyond common sense that it begs the question of whether the supporters of this bill gave it any thought at all.
It is not yet clear if the bill has a chance of becoming