States Move to Take Control of Online Pornography

Arizona legislators, along with nearly a dozen other states, have begun to discuss the possibility or requiring tech devices to be equipped with the ability to block pornography. If people want to get rid of the block, they’d have to pay a tax to have it removed.

The legislation. The Daily Caller reported:

In fact, proponents of the porn tax are expected to introduce a bill at the federal level sometime this month, according to CBS 5.

Generally referred to as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, the bill would require all internet-connected devices to be rigged with porn blocking software. Consumers who wish to rid the filter and view erotic content would have to pay a fee for every device.

Different states are introducing, to some degree, different versions of laws, so the details and language vary.

Advocates say. Those in support of the legislation claim that its implementation would greatly curb human trafficking, child exploitation, and domestic violence.

The official advocacy website for the legislation discussed their support for it in a video. They noted that “pornography is a public health crisis.” They further claimed that when Utah declared pornography to be a public health crisis in April 2016, it led the way “for folks to appreciate the fact that it needs to be regulated.”

Public health crisis. Kathleen Winn, who works for the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network, discussed the health effects of pornography and her belief that the consumption of pornography “is contributing to the growing criminal enterprise of sex trafficking.”

“What we know about pornography is that it’s addictive. It actually affects the brain,” she said. “Like any drug, like an addiction, you need more and more and more of it to get the same reaction from it as the first time you saw it. So yes, I absolutely believe pornography is contributing to the growing criminal enterprise of sex trafficking.”

Winn further compared the tax on pornography to other taxes already on the books. “We have taxes on cigarettes. We have taxes on alcohol. We have taxes on any product that you go and buy. This is a product,” she said.

The opposition. Those opposed to the bill have discussed the potential free speech infringement aspects, which include concern over what would be classified as pornography.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason wrote that “Content filters designed to catch explicit content have historically been harsh on all sorts of sexuality-related content, from educational websites to news to art.”

The Daily Caller reported:

And that is just one potential problem. In the case of South Carolina, which debated a porn tax bill, sellers and manufacturers of  devices would be compelled to install digital-blocking capabilities on every piece of equipment with internet capacity, or else be forced to pay a fine for each device sold.

The legislation, depending on the scope and vagueness of the language, could also cause civil liberties issues.

“The way it’s written, it would cover your router. It would cover your modem,” Electronic Frontier Foundation researcher Dave Maass explained to Reason. “Plus, now Best Buy is sitting on a database of people who wanted their porn filters removed.”

Josh Blackman, an associate professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, explained that he sees this as a constitutional violation.

“In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Supreme Court held that California could not prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors. That law was overbroad, and violated the freedom of speech,” Blackman told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Blackman added that the pornography legislation “is even more overbroad, and by default, censors the sort of information adults can access unless they pay a fine. Even though the government does have the power to regulate ‘obscene’ content–which is different from pornography — imposing a filter would sweep in a lot of constitutionally protected speech.”