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Utah campaign against pornography begins with a phone filter program

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah Conservative lawmakers have fired in their long-running campaign against online pornography, demanding that all cell phones and tablets sold in the state automatically block pornography in what critics call a significant free speech intrusion. : ,

Supporters and critics are now waiting to see if the new governor, Republican Spencer Cox, will sign or veto a proposal passed by the state-controlled legislature this month.

Cox has not publicly stated which side he is leaning on. His spokesman, Jennifer Napier-Pierce, said in an e-mail only that Cox would “carefully consider the bill at the time it is signed.” He will decide by March 25.

Proponents argue that the restriction is a possible step to help parents keep clear content out of the reach of children, especially since more children have their own electronic devices and have to spend more time online during an epidemic.

The fight against pornography has been a long-standing issue for Utah lawmakers who have previously imposed warning labels on print-online pornography, declaring porn a “public health crisis.”

Utah’s general conservative culture means that major racial magazines ÷á lingerie catalogs can be considered risky. Leaders of the dominant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have also called attention to what they view as the harms of pornography.

Even if Cox signs the measure, it will not take effect unless five other states pass similar laws, a provision added after manufacturers and retailers expressed concern that it would be difficult to implement filters for one state.

There is a precedent for other states, such as Utah, for example. More than a dozen states have made similar decisions to declare porn a public health crisis since the state first did so in 2016.

If Cox signs the bill, Utah looks set to become the first state to push filters on devices, according to two well-known tech experts, the bill’s sponsor, despite federal internet restrictions on child pornography, has been passed. In the late 1990s and later in the courts.

The National Center for Sexual Exploitation, an anti-pornography group, welcomed the bill, saying that although many electronic devices are equipped with filters, it can be difficult for parents to connect them.

“Utah has adopted a robust, sensible solution that will help protect vulnerable children from access to harmful pornographic content from their phones and tablets,” said Down Hawkins, chief executive officer. Adults will be able to turn off the filters if they choose.

Research has raised questions about how pornography shapes children’s attitudes toward sex, and content filters can be an important tool in preventing child health, says Emily Rothman, a professor at Boston University who has studied the problem.

But even more comprehensive sex education is needed to counteract child pornography, he said.

Steps to expand sex education have long been controversial in Utah, with a bill passed in the state legislature this year that called for more discussion on sexual consent.

Republican Rep. Susan Pulsifer sponsored the pornography filter event, though she acknowledged it was not a complete solution.

“A child who wants to find it,’s trying, yes, will still be able to. “It’s just one step in the right direction,” he said.

He claims that the measure goes beyond the constitutional masses, as adults can turn off the filters, but experts say it still raises a number of legal concerns.

“You have basically got the state that forces the purification of legal content. It raises the flags of the First Amendment immediately, “said Samir Ain, director of policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, DC.

The message, as it is written, could be extended to any device “activated” in Utah, raising the likelihood that it might require a back-up to activate filters on any phone entering the state.

The new pornography scrutiny program is based on experiments in the 1990s: “If it goes into effect, ‘I guess the device manufacturer will go to court the next day,’ the law will require it,” said David Green. Director of Freedoms with the San Francisco-based Internet Group Civil Liberties Electronic Borders Foundation.

“The United States allows some explicit material to be restricted to minors, but it is a good distinction that may be required by the courts,” Green said.

He said that non-existent filters are not so complicated. “It’s not like you put a judge on your phone,” he said.

The filters are known to block other types of content on the market, including nude artwork, educational information, sex facts and sexuality, says Mike Stabil, a Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment business group.

The Utah-based American Civil Liberties Union says the bill goes too far, imposing the same standards on everyone.

“Arent filters are already in place,” said Ason Eason Grott, an attorney in law.


Epolito is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover hidden issues.


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