|“This analogy is weak,” wrote Brooks. “After all, minors have no constitutional right to consume alcohol, and the primary purpose of a bar is to serve alcohol. By contrast, the primary purpose of a social media platform is to engage in speech, and the State stipulated that social media platforms contain vast amounts of constitutionally protected speech for both adults and minors. Furthermore, Act 689 imposes much broader ‘location restrictions’ than a bar does.”
The judge also noted that the ID requirements the Social Media Safety Act would impose could deter adult speech, since “it is likely that many adults who otherwise would be interested in becoming account holders on regulated social media platforms will be deterred—and their speech chilled—as a result of the age verification requirements, which…will likely require them to upload official government documents and submit to biometric scans.”
Texas Law Would Let the Government ‘Peer Into the Most Intimate and Personal Aspects of People’s Lives’
A judge in Texas was similarly skeptical about the constitutionality of a Texas law related to age verification and adult content. The case was brought by the adult industry association the Free Speech Coalition (FSC).
In a Thursday order, Judge David A. Ezra blocked the state from enforcing the law as the FSC’s case moves forward.
“We’re pleased that the Court agreed with our view that HB 1181’s true purpose is not to protect young people, but to prevent Texans from enjoying First Amendment protected expression,” said FSC Executive Director Alison Boden. “The state’s defense of the law was not based in science or technology, but ideology and politics.”
Under H.B. 1181, platforms offering adult content would be forced to ID all visitors and to display warnings about the health dangers of viewing pornography. The law was set to take effect September 1.
“Even if the Court were to adopt narrow constructions of the statute, it would overburden protected speech of both sexual websites and their visitors,” wrote Ezra in yesterday’s order. “Courts have routinely struck down restrictions on sexual content as improperly tailored when they impermissibly restrict adult’s access to sexual materials in the name of protecting minors.”
Ezra called out Texas for not attempting less invasive means to shield young people from viewing porn and pointed out how thoroughly the law invades adult privacy.
If permitted to take effect, the law would allow “the government to peer into the most intimate and personal aspects of people’s lives,” wrote Ezra. “It runs the risk that the state can monitor when an adult views sexually explicit materials and what kinds of websites they visit.”
Mike Stabile, the FSC’s director of public affairs, called the order “a barnburner” in which the “court ruled with FSC on every major argument.” Stabile also pointed out that Ezra is not a liberal judge but a Reagan appointee.