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Free Expression, Privacy & Data

CDT and Rights Groups File Amicus Brief in Texas Online Age Verification Case

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined the ACLU, EFF, FIRE, Media Coalition, and Tech Freedom in an amicus brief urging the Fifth Circuit to affirm the preliminary injunction against Texas’s online age verification law. HB 1181 would require websites that host adult content to conduct age verification of every visitor to their sites and to display several “Texas Health and Human Services Warnings” asserting the dangers of pornography to adults and children.

As we argue in the brief, this law plainly violates the First Amendment. The provisions of the law requiring website operators and other online services to display the State of Texas’s derogatory opinions about lawful speech are a clear case of an unconstitutional effort by the government to compel the speech of private actors.

The age verification requirement of the law would also require online services to demand sensitive information from adult users before allowing them to access lawful, constitutionally protected speech. Concerns about privacy and security, an inability to produce requisite ID credentials, or errors by age verification tools could all chill adults from accessing online content that is fully protected by the First Amendment.

These constitutional infirmities with age verification mandates were recognized by the Supreme Court since the Reno v. ACLU decision in 1997, and have been reaffirmed by multiple courts since. The Fifth Circuit should affirm the preliminary injunction put in place by the district court and this law should ultimately be overturned.

Read the full brief here.