LINCOLN — A Nebraska legislative committee heard testimony Wednesday over a bill that would limit young people’s access to online porn by verifying a user is at least 18 years old.

Legislative Bill 1092, introduced by State Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil, would require porn websites to digitally verify the ages of visitors before sharing images and videos.

Murman said his goal is to protect “our most vulnerable women and children.” He said he modeled his legislation after similar efforts passed in Utah, Louisiana and Arkansas.

“We’re not trying to do something new here,” Murman told the Judiciary Committee. “We’re trying to do what’s been done in other states … and what’s been successful in other states.”

State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue questioned the wisdom of considering a bill that could put people’s personal identifying information online, including that of kids, if only for a brief time.

Among the ways LB 1092 would work: Porn sites would work with third-party companies to check a photograph of a person’s state ID or facial recognition to estimate age and then delete the photo and data.

“If we’re going to violate people’s civil liberties, and it’s about safety, why are we legitimizing a surveillance regime?” Blood asked Murman during committee questions.

Murman said the bill aims to ensure severe civil liabilities for any company that stores private identifying data or lets children look around. That risk motivates companies, he said.

He offered committee members an amendment that he said would clarify that the bill would not require creating a new form of digital ID. He said the amendment language also addresses some privacy concerns.

Privacy advocates, including Jane Seu of ACLU of Nebraska, scoffed at the idea that for-profit porn sites contracting with third-party companies to verify ID could protect personal privacy.

She called LB 1092 an unconstitutionally broad burden on all internet users that would force people to “share identifying information to access content online,” risking embarrassment.

“Internet safety should not come at the cost of personal rights,” Seu said.

Korby Gilbertson, of Media of Nebraska, said the First Amendment limits government regulation of speech unless it is narrowly tailored for a compelling public interest.

She said similar age verification bills face multiple lawsuits in multiple states and might not withstand judicial scrutiny.

“We’re not trying to stop anyone from protecting children from pornography, but this bill is too broad,” she said.

Nate Grasz of Nebraska Family Alliance and Marion Miner of the Nebraska Catholic Conference testified that the bill was needed to protect young people from easy access to porn.

Grasz said children are being exposed to graphic sexual imagery at earlier ages and in more extreme ways than ever, spurring lower self-esteem, body image issues and promiscuity.

“If a minor wants to see an R-rated movie, they can’t just walk into the theater,” he said.

Miner said Catholic teachings would implore lawmakers to act on the bill, saying they had a duty to protect the young from outside influences that could lead them astray.

State Sen. Barry DeKay of Niobrara said the bill “might not be the fix-all for the problem, but it takes it farther down the road than we have been.”

Blood and State Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Omaha asked Murman and his supporters about the technical aspects of the bill and its privacy provisions. Many questions centered on the ID data.

Murman said Pornhub saw its traffic drop 80% in Louisiana after that state passed a similar age verification bill. Pornhub shut off access to its site in Arkansas after an ID verification bill passed there.

Murman said he would be OK if the same happened in Nebraska. State Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha asked him why he didn’t just propose banning the sites in Nebraska.

Murman said he couldn’t do that for constitutional reasons. He said his proposal was a step that didn’t go too far. His bill received 228 letters in support, with 11 others opposing it and 13 neutral.

“Many have considered the industry all but impossible to regulate,” he said. “That’s the necessity for this bill.”

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