Alaska House bill would require adult sites to verify users are 18 or older

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, speaks on the House floor on April 24, 2024. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska House of Representatives is considering a bill that would require adult websites to verify users are 18 or older.

The bill would require sites that, as the bill puts it, “contain a substantial portion of pornography” to use a “commercially reasonable age verification method.” Similar bills have passed in more than a dozen other states. Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, is sponsoring the effort in the House.

“This is simply trying to safeguard our children, because we do know that pornography is used as a grooming tool by predators on our children, and that’s what I’m seeking to prevent,” Vance told reporters on Tuesday.

Advocates say children are accessing adult content in their early years, sometimes unintentionally. In a 2014 study of adult men who had watched pornography in the last six months, the average age at which participants had first viewed adult content was around 12. 

And Vance says electronic age verification is a reasonable restriction — no different than showing an ID at a liquor store. 

But opponents say keeping minors from accessing inappropriate content isn’t so simple. Mike Stabile is with the Free Speech Coalition, a California-based adult content industry group lobbying against the bill.

“There’s no value in having minors come to our site. It’s a detriment to our site, both ethically and financially,” Stabile said. “But the legislation that’s been drafted is drafted with magical thinking. It’s not the way that consumers work, and it’s not the way that websites work.”

For one thing, Stabile said, age verification is ineffective, pushing users to sites based overseas that don’t have to comply with the law — or numerous other laws and regulations aimed at safeguarding performers and consumers. And consumers don’t want to comply, Stabile said, whether that’s over fears of data leaks or simply delays in accessing content. In states that have passed similar laws, Stabile said domestic adult sites saw traffic drop 95% as consumers took their traffic elsewhere.

Similar efforts in other states and at the federal level have also come under First Amendment scrutiny. A 1997 Supreme Court case struck down a federal law requiring age verification on adult sites. The court found that the requirement effectively suppressed a large amount of speech protected by the Constitution.

But more recent results in court have been mixed. Since a Louisiana law set off a flurry of state-level age verification efforts in 2022, courts have largely upheld age verification laws. Industry groups and First Amendment advocates are pushing the Supreme Court to step in. 

The Alaska age verification bill is due for amendments and a final House vote in the coming days. If passed, it’ll head to the Senate.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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