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South Carolina’s Chumley files bill to create law to block porn

Image Credit: © Diana Eller | Dreamstime.com

South Carolina state representative Bill Chumley (R-Spartanburg), has introduced a bill designed to fight human trafficking by blocking pornography on any device sold in the state. According to GoUpstate.com, the bill will require manufacturers of devices to install digital blocking on all computers and phones sold within the states borders. The manufacturers of the devices would be able to remove the block by paying the state $20 per device sold. The end users of the products would also be able to get the blocks removed by proving their age, confirming they have received a written warning of the dangers, and paying the $20. The proceeds of the fees will go to the states fund to combat human trafficking. It should be noted that Rep. Chumley represents South Carolina’s upstate region, which according to authorities is a “hotbed” of human trafficking activity.

Human trafficking is a terrible crime, and should certainly be stopped. However, this bill seems more like a crusade against porn and  less like something that will help to protect victims from human trafficking.  I would like to share a quote from Rep. Chumley as reported in the GoUpState.com article

“If we could have manufacturers install filters that would be shipped to South Carolina, then anything that children have access on for pornography would be blocked,” … “We felt like that would be another way to fight human trafficking.”

This quote already identifies the bill as a thinly veiled attempt at censorship. His own statement indicates that he is concerned with children having access to pornography. I am in agreement that children should not see pornography, for many reasons. I will also concede that there are cases, with some less reputable porn sites are using victims of human trafficking in their products. I, however, fail to see how children seeing pornography relates to human trafficking. The burden of protecting children should rest with parents, not the government. The government should be using its resources, not to become a nanny state, but to go after unlawful pornography producers.

Here is the second issue, and that is the blatant assault on the privacy rights of the citizens of South Carolina. As long as they are not violating the law they should be able to use their devices freely, without interference. Consensual pornography, featuring adults 18 years of age or older, is legal in the United States. It is none of the state’s business what its citizens do in the privacy of their own homes. With this bill the state would have a database of all users who have requested the block to be removed. Honestly I am not sure what they might do with such a list, but to me that is an invasion of privacy.

Furthermore how exactly would this law be enforced, would this be monitored? Couldn’t one just go across the border to another state and purchase tech products. What is to stop people from creating a way to get around the filter, which will almost certainly happen? While I’m sure that would be illegal, how would they know, would there be some type of phone-home type reporting, which of course further increases the privacy concerns. Would this lead to more serious attempts at censorship, or more draconian measures to prevent users from getting around the filters. Could ISP’s be one day required to take part in a state wide internet filtering scheme? All of these are valid concerns that should be addressed.

One could make the argument that since some pornography involves human trafficking victims; the burden should be on the consumers of pornography products to help pay for law enforcement efforts. This could be easily accomplished by simply adding a small (say .5%) tax to all electronic devices, or internet service, instead of singling out, and invading the privacy of citizens. The state would rake in a bigger profit, and could support this and other programs. Now some would find this unfair to those who do not consume pornography, this is why I say the tax could be used for other projects as well. Things like combating child pornography, something that is universally considered to be deplorable.

I just think that the privacy and censorship concerns are too great for this to go forward. I however am an outside observer. I do not live in South Carolina, and only visit on occasion. I do know there is more of a conservative lean down there, but I also know that there are a lot of intelligent people. I’m sure that matter will be debated and the legislators those people elected will make decisions accordingly. My concern is that this kind ow of thinking could spill out of South Carolina, and start affecting other states, or move to the federal level. Human trafficking is a terrible crime, and we should do as much as we can to stop it. However, in that process the rights and privacy of law abiding citizens must be respected.

Via: GoUpstate.com

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