State and federal legislators across the country are introducing well-intentioned, but flawed, legislation to protect kids from what they perceive as harm from social media. This legislation would, or does, require websites to verify the age of users in order for them to hold accounts. In the case of users under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must consent to their child using social media. But every one of these pieces of legislation—including some that have become law—have fundamental problems ranging from the functionality of age-verification technology to violations of the First Amendment inherent to the technology itself.

This series explores each of these issues in depth, giving them the care and attention they deserve. We analyze problems with the technology that purports to verify age, cybersecurity concerns surrounding identity verification, different First Amendment concerns, the ways that the government can abuse these age verification databases and more.

Part 1 – The technology to verify your age without violating your privacy does not exist

Part 2 – If platforms are required to have your government IDs and face scans, hackers and enemy governments can access them too

Part 3 – Age-verification legislation discourages data minimization, even when legislators don’t intend that

Part 4 – Age-verification methods, in their current forms, threaten our First Amendment right to anonymity

Part 5 – Current age-verification methods threaten our First Amendment rights beyond anonymity

Part 6 – Social media platforms and age verification services can also be connected to existing data and served warrants by the government

Part 7 – Age-verification legislation doesn’t do what legislators say it will

Part 8 – Regimes that run age verification through the government would allow prosecutors to make children federal criminals if they lie about their age

Part 9 – Age-verification laws don’t exempt VPN traffic. But that traffic can’t always be detected.

Part 10 – Remaining considerations: Guardian relationships, benefits of algorithms and age-appropriate design

Get smart quick: Sign up for technology policy right in your inbox.