Utah Passes Idiotic Porn Censorship Law That Does Nothing

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation on Tuesday that would require all phones and tablets sold in the state to automatically block pornography.  

The law, H.B. 72, will require device manufacturers to add adult content filters on all smartphones and tablets sold in Utah. If manufacturers don’t comply, they’d be held legally liable if a minor accesses “harmful content,” with a maximum fine of $10 per individual violation. “Harmful to minors” is defined as “any description or representation, in whatsoever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse” when it “appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minor,” appeals to “prurient interest” in sex with minors, or has no “serious value” to minors.

The law, however, doesn’t have teeth. It doesn’t go into effect immediately upon signing; the terms of the measure require that five other states also enact similar laws by 2031, at which point it will go into effect. 

According to the Associated Press, Cox said the measure would send an “important message” about preventing children from accessing explicit content online. Utah’s legislators—most of whom are members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints—are historically anti-porn. In 2016, then-governor Gary Herbert declared porn a “public health crisis.” 

“This is another example of the Legislature dodging the constitutional impacts of the legislation they pass,” ACLU attorney Jason Groth told the AP.

First Amendment attorney Larry Walters told adult industry publication AVN that bills like the one signed by Cox are a matter of pandering to constituents. “The anti-porn lobby has been pushing these adult content filtering bills for years, and has finally pushed one through,” Walters said. “If signed into law, the bill would certainly be challenged on First Amendment grounds.” 

Age verification laws pushed by Congress or state legislature are usually struck down, Walters said. “Lawmakers may simply conclude that it is easier to let the courts strike down the laws than to do their jobs by honoring constitutional constraints.”

In February, during hearings for the bill, the ACLU of Utah tweeted that it “infringes upon the general public’s First Amendment rights to freely access the internet.” 

Last week, adult performer Cherie DeVille wrote an open letter to Cox: “If Utah strips porn from cellphones, kids can still log onto Grand Theft Auto and role-play as a violent murderer who shoots sex workers,” DeVille wrote. “It’s hard to believe your fellow Republicans are fighting to protect kids’ eyes when they’re OK with children consuming violent games, movies, and television shows. Stop using ‘protect the children’ when your real goal is to stop adults from watching porn.” 

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