South Carolina Senator Wants To Charge Computer Purchasers $20 To Access Internet Porn

from the desperately-in-need-of-a-stupidity-filter dept

Oh lord. Another porn blocking bill.

A state senator from South Carolina thinks he can save his constituents from a mostly-imaginary parade of horribles by erecting a porn paywall. Only none of this paywall money will go to porn producers or actors. Instead, it will all go to the fine state of South Carolina… you know, theoretically… if there were actually any way to effectively enforce this.

An Upstate legislator is hoping to prevent anyone who buys a computer in South Carolina from accessing pornography.

State Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, said the Human Trafficking Prevention Act would require manufacturers or sellers to install digital blocking capabilities on computers and other devices that access the internet to prevent the viewing of obscene content.

The bill would fine manufacturers or sellers that sell a device without a digital blocking system installed. But any manufacturer or seller that didn’t want to install the system could pay a $20 opt-out fee for each device sold.

Any buyers who want the filter lifted after purchasing a computer or device would have to pay a $20 fee, after verifying they are 18 or older.

Chumley justifies his stupid idea by saying he’s trying to make a dent in human trafficking, which is the hot new “think of the children” excuse, what with child porn having had the wheels run off it for the last four decades and terrorism all tied up securing Stingrays and MRAPs for cop shops. Here’s how the new “porn, please” monies will be distributed.

The money collected from the fines and fees would go to the S.C. Attorney General’s Office’s human trafficking task force, which works with law enforcement leaders, nonprofits and state advocates to find solutions to trafficking.

What does porn have to do with human trafficking? Only Chumley seems to know. His bill [PDF] provides more verbiage, but nothing in the way of explanation.

Whereas, the State of South Carolina has a compelling interest in protecting the public health and protecting minors from being exposed to obscenity; and

Whereas, studies have shown that pornography is a public health hazard, leading to a broad spectrum of well documented individual impacts and societal harms; and

Whereas, easily accessible pornography on products that are distributed through the Internet is impacting the demand for human trafficking and prostitution; and

Whereas, the General Assembly has a compelling interest to impose a narrowly tailored, common sense filter system that combats the growing epidemic of dissemination of pornographic images and the resulting demand for human trafficking while balancing the consumer’s fundamental right to regulate his own mental health.

Ok, then. So, porn “impacts” the demand for trafficked humans, presumably much in the way strip clubs “impact” the “demand” for rape victims. And that’s preceded by the assertion that “pornography is a public health hazard,” something backed up by “studies” (none named or footnoted, but echoing Utah’s stance), which is every bit as questionable as Chumley’s belief he can drop a $20 porn blocker into every computer sold in the state.

The bill only gets more ridiculous from there. Whatever Chumley has half-assed together here will apparently rest on the big brains of tech companies that will just have to nerd their hardest to appease the senator’s puritanical desires.

Read it and weep [into your palmed face]:

(B)    The business, manufacturer, wholesaler, or individual must:

(1)    make reasonable and ongoing efforts to ensure that the digital content blocking capability functions properly, including establishing a reporting mechanism such as a website or call center to allow for a consumer to report unblocked obscene content or report blocked content that is not obscene;

(2)    ensure that all child pornography and revenge pornography is inaccessible on the product;

(3)    prohibit the product from accessing any hub that facilitates prostitution; and

(4)    render websites that are known to facilitate any trafficking of persons, as defined in Section 16-3-2010(9), inaccessible

So… any site that also contains pornographic images like Imgur would presumably be blocked, even though it isn’t technically a porn site. And any site that might “facilitate” prostitution — which could be any site in reality, but would include everything from Backpage to Craigslist, would also be blocked.

How anyone’s going to proactively block “revenge porn” is beyond me, as no site delivering revenge porn utlizes that term and the many people fighting against it have yet to come up with a cohesive definition, much less one that could be turned into a proactive algorithmic block.

But all hope is not lost. Sites wrongly blocked by the default filter could be removed from the state’s blacklist in as little as five business days, provided two things: the site contains enough non-porn-related virtues that Chumley deems it worth saving, and that the site makes its own proactive efforts to remove “obscene” images — which, it must be noted — is not the same thing as pornography.

Not only will the state need to come up with a blacklist, but it also will have to set up a call center for people to report sites containing porn that aren’t being blocked and to whitelist sites inadvertently caught in the $20 filter.

Users who would like to see porn will at least have to turn over their IDs to computer sellers to verify that they are over the age of 18, along with a $20 bill. Device resellers who violate the law will find themselves subject to the same punishments facing South Carolinians who engage in incest, bigamy, sexual explotation of children, prostitution… um… adultery, buggery, etc. Apparently, the state’s laws were last updated before the New Testament went to press.

If the porn filter doesn’t filter enough porn (and there’s no porn filter being offered by the state — retailers are expected to solve this problem on their own), sellers could be faced with a $500 fine for each image left unblocked.

I would say this bill is on its way to being laughed out of the state Senate, but after viewing the sexual conduct laws still on the books, I’m no longer as sure. For what it’s worth, Sen. Chumley is now an internet laughingstock — something he’s fully earned by coming up with perhaps the stupidest porn filtering idea yet.

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Comments on “South Carolina Senator Wants To Charge Computer Purchasers $20 To Access Internet Porn”

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110 Comments
Agammamon says:

“Whereas, the State of South Carolina has a compelling interest in protecting the public health and protecting minors from being exposed to obscenity;”

As they say on Wikipedia, ‘Citation Needed’. Saying its so doesn’t make it so.

I’d like to see where in the state constitution it lays these out as duties of the government.

Then I’d like to see their evidence that pornography is a threat to public health and/or obscene.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And if that is a real duty of government, then this bill and a lot of other GOP tripe should be illegal. It would mean that health care should be provided by the government and welfare and free education should be provided to all since people who have food, shelter, and a good education are statistically likely to have better health than those who don’t. But of course we know this has nothing to do with public health or protecting children. It’s a stealth tax since no computer manufacturer will make special computers just to be sold in South Carolina and will just pay the fee in advance and charge the customer more for it.

ryuugami says:

Re: This provides context for the Governor's recent decision

I was wondering why Nikki Haley was so eager to get the heck out of there. Her decision to go take a job she has no experience or preparation for makes a heck of a lot more sense now.

Nikki Haley? Isn’t that the “masturbation is adultery” lady? Cause this looks like something she’d wholly support and push for, not run away from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This provides context for the Governor's recent decision

So many crazies, so many crazy things said, it’s hard to keep track of it all and I think that is their strategy .. or is it strategery?

Probably all of the nuts have said that at one time or another but I forget who it was that got all the media attention from it. And then there was the “I’m not a witch”, boy was that funny.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: From the department of bas ideas

By hardwiring a proxy connection into the hardware, so that all Internet traffic is routed via the manufacturers or vendors servers. This will solve the the TLA’s encryption problem as well, as you will only be able to use the keys for that proxy service to connect to the Internet, and they will use carry out the encryption needed to talk to everything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: More From the Department of Very Bad Ideas

By definition that would make Chumley’s tool an appliance and not a general computing device.

Good luck with him (not):

a) getting one fabricated on someone else’s dime
b) foisting it’s sale on SC
c) restricting the sale of general purpose computers in SC
d) preventing the inevitable breaking and hacking of his appliance
e) putting the porn genie back in the bottle

This is Operation Infinite Purity, all over again.

Christopher Best (profile) says:

Where do you even start? The obvious First Amendment implications? The complete ineffectiveness at attaining its stated goals? The actual impossibility of the mandate (How do you sell a Raspberry Pi with the filter pre-installed? How do you deal with people like me who build their own computers from individual parts? Does some key component become ‘the computer’ like we pretend a receiver == gun?)?

Are we sure Chumley isn’t some sort of Google Deep Mind AI project that’s using a neural network to generate things that look like Bills?

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Maybe it was his intention all along “But any manufacturer or seller that didn’t want to install the system could pay a $20 opt-out fee for each device sold.”

To me that pretty much says “$20 tax is being added to every internet device” because charging an extra $20 is a lot easier and cheaper than jumping over the impossibly high bar set for filtering the entire internet with 100% accuracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Sounds plausible.
Interest groups make republican candidates (allegedly ‘fiscally responsible’,) pledge not to raise taxes if they want to be elected. (If they don’t, said groups will campaign against them, visciously.)

If you can’t raise taxes, the only way you could possibly hope to balance budgets is by slashing spending.

or by sneaking in something that definitely isn’t a tax, honest, really, guys! Tapdancing around his pledge and picking on an acceptable target and revenue source.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Reload windows

No, I think it would find its way to the mobo. A nic is not expensive and they are easy to mod, mobo not so much although possible. There will be hacks, probably where you remove the spy chip and add wires, might even have to cut a few traces. All of this of course will be illegal because they will have already removed all your rights … except the second amendment. You will retain your right to bare/bear arms even though you will not be allowed to have any. Pretzel logic will rule the day and Brawno has electrolytes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Reload windows

That will not help people who have just bought the latest Windows machine, especially if/when Microsoft decides that disabling secure boot will not be allowed when windows is installed, or after they push an upgrade. Not many people will think of that issue, or be prepared to run Linux/BSD on their computers.

streetlight (profile) says:

This law might generate computer smuggling

Although $20 is not a huge sum, some folks needing a new computer might just go to a neighboring state to buy it if they live close to the border. For inexpensive hardware such as a $150 to $200 (plus or minus) Chromebook, tablet or phone, a longer trip might be worth it, especially if one were planning a trip anyway. Other scenarios are also possible.

Furthermore, this bill sounds like a violation of the Constitution’s provisions about states taxing interstate commerce and the federal government’s exclusive right to levy tariffs on goods imported from foreign countries. Pretty much all computer hardware will come to a US state from abroad and may pass through other states as well.

Grey (profile) says:

I used to, (before quitting for my kids and stroked-out-Mother-in-law) work in insurance, My wife is a senior Workmen’s Comp examiner.

Idiocy like this got her almost fired for using the internet at work, for looking at medical journals because they use terms like “penis”.

Conversations with the higher-ups usually went…

“We understand you’ve been looking at inappropriate material on the job”

“The Lancet is inappropriate?”

“What is “The Lancet?”

“SIGH”

They don’t bother her anymore.

Seegras (profile) says:

Whereas, studies have shown that pornography is a public health hazard, leading to a broad spectrum of well documented individual impacts and societal harms

Right. Studies like "The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs" by William Acton, 1857

Wherein he also describes the health hazards of masturbation:

"His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his evil habits are persisted in, he may end in becoming a drivelling idiot or a peevish valetudinarian".

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his evil habits are persisted in, he may end in becoming a drivelling idiot or a peevish valetudinarian. Should he continue in his deviant ways even beyond this point his intellect will plummet such that he will be capable only of entering politics, no other profession requiring so little thought.".

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, most teenagers should be vegetables incapable of doing the most basic tasks (except for masturbating it seems) by that definition since between ~10 to well over 18 most guys have enough fun to suck the entirety of their brains out.

According to some ‘sources’ (use the term loosely) most teenagers are also mass murderer having committed large scale genocide and having killed 4 to 5 times the earth population before they reach adulthood. So, yeah. Idiocy.

Anonymous Coward says:

How can you tell it's porn? By the pixels of course

You just don’t get it Tim. The blocker can just analyze each image to determine how titillating it might be to any potential viewer in the state (and take a look at intent of the uploader to catch revenge porn). This is necessary because anyone who sees a nipple (or perhaps an exposed thigh) will immediately go out and enslave some helpless women and force them to make more sadistic porn. That’s how the devil gets around. He’s a communicable disease transmitted through the eyeballs.

Anonymous Coward says:

If this bill passes, the only sane thing for any business to do is pay the $20 per device. Heck, even if the consumer WANTS the filtering and they’re installing the filtering software anyway, it STILL makes sense to pay the $20 opt out. Because otherwise they’re paying $500 per image that escapes their filter (oops, you let a single site with 2000 images through? That’s a million bucks!) and also getting sued for any false positives that they don’t fix within 5 days. Plus the bill requires ongoing efforts – how many years do you think they’ll have to support filtering software on outdated computers before the law decides it’s no longer reasonable?

I don’t even want to know what they’d have to do to the computers to make it so that the filtering cannot be turned off by the consumer. You’d probably have to deny the consumer administrative access to his own machine.

Anonymous Coward says:

sidestepping all the holes they'd have to fill...

(see what i did there ๐Ÿ˜‰

who pays for the cost to host such filtering services at a scale of a US State?

also for fun, its basically saying all hardware and software sold in state… so if you want it unblocked:
– on your computer: pay $20
– on your chrome browser: pay $20
– on your firefox browser: pay $20
– on your router: pay $20
– on your ISP: pay $20
– on your binaries (curl): pay $20

…down the rabbit hole we go. I want you to unblock webiste.com, now you have to petition all these services and vendors to unlock it for you?

either he’s just soap boxing to make it sound like he tried but his evil opponents don’t CARE enough ABOUT THE CHILDREN and he’ll just use this as campaign fodder…. or he’s really this tarded and somehow tricked enough people to get into some power of position where someone gave him a pen and paper to write such nonsense.

i have enough faith in SC peeps that they’ll vote against a porn tax, this interwebz we see today exists because of porn anyways…good luck chuck.

David says:

Re: sidestepping all the holes they'd have to fill...

Not just that, but the IoT things coming out, like your car, Nest thermostat, web cams, refrigerators, toasters, etc all “connect to the internet” and would be subject to the $20 fine/fee.

The first place they ought to test this technology is at all South Carolina government buildings.

Also, since it’s technically “cable” and not “internet”, does that $20 include cable/satellite boxes accessing the Playboy and other channels?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

How does this slow human trafficking, exactly?

Most readily available porn on the internet (involving depictions of actual humans) is of professional or amateur models with active consent.

Unless we infer that this $20 fee is a license to view porn of trafficked humans. This strongly suggests a license to legally view child porn in while in South Carolina.

markkernes (profile) says:

Sadly, It Ain't Just SC

South Carolina is the one making the news right now, but their bill is just a boilerplate created by (possibly disbarred) attorney Chris Sevier, who’s also created similar bills for 22 other states, where conservative pols are just waiting to introduce them. I wrote about it here: https://avn.com/business/articles/legal/s-carolina-1st-state-to-tackle-mandatory-porn-filtering-bill-705845.html (possibly NSFW)

Anonymous Coward says:

What is it with crotchetty old men in government hating sex? Is it because they don’t have any fun, so they want to restrict fun for everyone else as well?

Yes, porn has problems. But these problems can be addressed by being more *open* about sex, particularly sexual education. People turn to porn because they have no other source of information. That is the problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

my tinfoil hat is tingling

Copyright
Patents
Trademark

All have been used to control emergent technologies.

I’m starting to see a pattern here. Those in power must have an incredible dislike of an open internet not directly under their control. More and more, I keep finding news about some country or state trying to ‘tax’ the internet.

Besides, so long as people continue to procreate, so too will some form of porn. The alternative according to several dsytopian fictional stories, isn’t a future I’d want to live in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Easily circumvented with a VPN. I could see VPN subsciptions from South Carolinians going up if this goes through.

I have considered starting a VPN service. Maybe I should start a VPN service based in Mexico. A VPN service based in Mexico, and with servers there would be not subject to South Carolina laws. A VPN in Mexico would only be subject to Mexican laws.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

There's also the matter that parental control software databases come from the same source...

…and it is a source that has certain biases that are consistent with specific religious attitudes that align, if coincidentally, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (not necessarily the Vatican or the Holy See) and the Southern Baptist Church statement of faith.

Specifically, hate sites that target LGBTQ interests and individuals are not regarded as hate sites, and sex education sites that provide accurate data are regarded as pornographic.

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