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Underage porn access could be felony in Tennessee for website

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(The Center Square) – A Tennessee bill would make it a felony for an adult content website allows access to a minor without age verification.

The offense would become a class C felony and the entity would be liable for damages, including attorney’s costs and court fees.

“Website owners must implement a reasonable age verification method for access and anonymize any personally identified information used for historical data and statistics,” said Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville.

A fiscal note on Senate Bill 1792 estimates it will cost the state more than $4 million in the first year and then $2 million each year after that. The law would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Department of Homeland Security estimated that it would cost $3 million to create a cyber forensics lab to investigate offenses. The cost includes the lab, equipment, storage, software licensing and training.

The recurring maintenance and storage expenses, software licensing and staffing will lead to the recurring expenses.

“Introducing children to pornography constitutes a type of sexual abuse and exploitation, with profound implications for their intellectual growth and emotional health,” Massey said. “We need to make every effort to prevent children from accessing online sites with content that is not only extremely inappropriate for children but can damage their development and impact their relationships.”

The bill will next head to the full Senate after unanimously passing the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Massey cited a survey from Common Sense Media saying 73% of those ages 13 to 17 have watched pornography online and 54% say they watched before they turned 13.