16.4.17

Alabama bill would block access to porn on computers and smartphones

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Alabama is one of several states that could be looking for a way to block pornographic material from any new computers or smartphones sold in the state. Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, is sponsoring a bill pushing for a porn filter on electronics and said he got involved a few years ago when asked by somebody if there was any way to cut people's access to child pornography and electronic solicitation of sex.



Williams said 13 other states including South Carolina are also currently looking at bills to block porn access on devices sold in-state. The problem is how to accomplish that. Either an arrangement would have to be struck with electronics companies to implement hardware or software to block explicit web content or it would have to be done by someone else further along the consumer chain. Williams said that he's aware of the challenges of implementing a statewide block on content that couldn't be circumvented by getting a VPN, proxy, or a computer shipped from another state

Williams brought his bill, HB 356, before the Commerce and Small Business Committee Wednesday for that reason. He hopes that it will be given to a subcommittee of experts to figure out how to feasibly limit access to America's largest industry. Williams said that, along with child pornography, limiting youth access to porn is another motivation for the bill.

"We have a problem in our country related to children and their access to adult material or pornography," Williams said. "Twenty-five years ago, a 12-year-old could not walk into an adult bookstore. Today the bookstore can come to them."

Williams brought with him a seemingly unlikely champion of porn regulation, Jessica Neely, to speak for the bill as well. Neely has become a staunch opponent of the porn industry after a career in porn led her into being an escort and eventually into running her own escort service for women over the age of 18, she said. Neely said she became a "social media madam" and once faced 30 years in federal prison for human trafficking.

"I made exploitation seductive. The porn industry taught me everything I knew (about exploitation)," said Neely, a former youth pastor who said she lost her faith and turned to the sex industry after being raped as a 22-year-old virgin. "We've not done away with slavery. We've recreated slavery by allowing a subculture of exploitation to take our daughters in the form of Hooters or strip clubs. As we see child pornography has run rampant, it's simply the addiction gone out of control.

"Pornography has never been a protected right in freedom of speech."

Williams said he is not trying to be a moral champion but pointed to the media attention the bill has gotten in Alabama and other states as proof that he's doing the right thing by bringing attention to the issue. He hopes to continue getting attention from internet service providers and the tech industry.

“If I had done a press conference three weeks ago and said, ‘I think we have a problem with children’s access to pornography,’ the industry would have not even known I said it,” Williams said. “By introducing legislation, they’re coming to the table saying they may be able to do some things they’re not doing."

The bill currently says that anybody who wants to unlock their device would have to pay $20 and provide a written notice, but Williams said he's going to do away with that aspect of the bill.

MIDUFINGA

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