Did you ever have child blocks on your computer?
Something similar might be coming back to your computer soon, if these new laws floating through state legislatures move forward.
Several states are considering legislation that would require internet service providers to throw up a filter that blocks users from accessing any pornography – including normally free pornography – unless they pay a special fee to unlock it.
The law is billed online as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. Here’s the gist:
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Depending on the version of the law, internet service providers (the people you pay to get internet service) would need to block pornography sites from your computer; or, any new devices, including laptops, phones and tablets, would need to be equipped with a filter that blocks that content.
If you decide you want to access those sites, you could pay a one-time fee, which would then be forwarded to the government to be used to help fight human trafficking or for other programs addressing harmful effects of pornography.
The Daily Beast did some digging on the man behind the broader proposal and found out it was 40-year-old Chris Sevier, who once tried to legally marry his computer as a protest over gay marriage. In 2013, he also sued Apple for not automatically blocking porn, saying easy access to pornography caused him to become addicted and ruined his marriage.
He told the site he was inspired to enact the law after working as a volunteer in Asian countries, but the site could not verify he had ever done so.
“We’re definitely not anti-sex,” Sevier told the Daily Beast. “Sex is good. God made it. But when humans are getting off to child pornography images, it doesn’t promote human flourishing.”
Sevier’s colorful past aside, many states are taking his idea seriously.
Rhode Island’s bill would require ISPs to block access to “patently offensive material” until users proved they were over 18 year old and paid a $20 fee, which would be routed to the state’s anti-human trafficking commission. Providers who didn’t comply and block sites could be fined.
“This matter is not about free speech,” Virginia delegate David A. LaRock told the New York Daily News while speaking about that state’s version of the bill. “It is about protecting people by requiring the sellers and manufacturers who, without this protection, allow consumers to have unrestricted access to material that is harmful to their own mental health.”
The proposals have met with some fierce criticisms from civil liberties advocate groups.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the version of the law proposed in Alabama was unconstitutional, and told AL.com “The notion that you have to jump through some hoops as an adult to access free information on the Internet violates the First Amendment.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the proposed bills “terrible,” and said the idea behind them was impossible to fairly implement.
“This is terrible for consumer choice because it forces people to purchase a software product they don’t necessarily want. It’s also terrible for free speech because it restrains what you can see. Because of the risk of legal liability, companies are more likely to over-censor, blocking content by default rather than giving websites the benefit of the doubt” the organization wrote. “Legislators should do the right thing: uphold the Constitution, protect consumers, and not use the problem of human trafficking as an excuse to promote this individual’s agenda against pornography.”