When we've talked in the past about government attempting to outright block pornography sites, those efforts have typically been aimed at sites hosting child pornography. Blocking child porn is a goal that's impossible to rebel against, though the methods for achieving it are another matter entirely. Too often, these attempts task ISPs and mobile operators with the job of keeping this material out of the public eye, which is equal parts burdensome, difficult to do, and rife with collateral damage. Other nations, on the other hand, have gone to some lengths to outright block pornography in general, such as in Pakistan for religious reasons, or in the UK for save-the-children reasons. If the attempts to block child porn resulted in some collateral damage, the attempts to outright censor porn from the internet resulted in a deluge of such collateral damage. For this reason, and because we have that pesky First Amendment in America, these kinds of efforts attempted by the states have run into the problem of being unconstitutional in the past.
But, as they say, if at first you don't succeed, just try it in an even more conservatively prudish state again. Which brings us to Utah, where state Senator Todd Weiler is leading the effort to purge his state of any access to porn on mobile devices.
Utah Senator Todd Weiler has proposed a bill to rid the state of porn by adding Internet filters and anti-porn software on all cell phones and requiring citizens to opt-in before viewing porn online. It's to save the children, he says. Weiler successfully pushed an anti-porn resolution through the state Senate earlier this year, declaring porn a "public health crisis." He now hopes to take his movement a step further by making it harder for Utah citizens to have access to digital porn.
"A cell phone is basically a vending machine for pornography," Weiler told TechCrunch, using the example of cigarettes sold in vending machines and easily accessed by children decades ago.
This is where we'd usually talk about how this sort of thing is almost certainly unconstitutional, not to mention how easily circumvented the attempt would be. And both of those remain true for this case. But I would like to instead focus on the lazy analogies Weiler chooses to make and let them serve as an example of how easily twisted people's opinions can become if you simply add "saving the children" to the goals of a particular piece of legislation.
Let's start with the quote above, although I promise you there is more from Senator Weiler that we'll discuss. He claims that a cell phone is basically a porno vending machine, like a cigarette vending machine. The only problem with his analogy is how wildly untrue it is. A cigarette vending machine has no other purpose than, you know, vending smokes. A cell phone, on the other hand, has a few other purposes. Like playing video games, for instance. Or serving as a music device. Or making god damned phone calls. A claim that a phone is simply a vending machine for porn shows either a tragic misunderstanding of basic technology or, more likely, is simply a veiled hate-bomb at the internet itself. Regardless, it is not upon government to decide how our property is used lawfully. And it isn't on government to parent children. We have people for that. They're called parents.
But Weiler wasn't done.
The senator says England was successful in blocking porn on the Internet. Prime Minister David Cameron pushed legislation through in 2013 requiring U.K. Internet service providers to give citizen's the option to filter out porn.
The good Senator must have a strange definition for success, because the UK law is easily circumvented, has managed to censor all kinds of educational and informational non-pornography sites and material, and was created by a lovely chap who was later arrested on charges of child pornography himself. If one wishes to draw upon the success of something in order to push his own interests, that something probably shouldn't be a complete dumpster fire.
Local Utah ISPs are already calling the plan unrealistic and comparing it to censorious governments that I am certain Senator Weiler would recoil from. Not that this matters, I guess, since Senator Weiler fantastically admits that he has no idea how this will all work under his law.
Weiler says he doesn't know how it would work but just wants to put the idea out there and that his main concern is kids looking at porn.
"The average age of first exposure to hard-core pornography for boys is eleven years old," he said. "I'm not talking about seeing a naked woman. I'm talking about three men gang-raping a woman and pulling her hair and spitting on her face. I don't think that's the type of sex ed we want our kids to have."
Look, I usually like to back up my rebuttals to these types of things with facts and figures, but I just don't have them in this case. That isn't going to stop me from declaring that the average first exposure to pornography is an eleven year old boy seeing exactly three men gang-raping a woman is a line of bullshit so deep that the Utah Senate certainly must provision knee-high boots to its membership for such a thing to even be suggested. And this should tell you everything you need to know about Senator Weiler's plans: he doesn't know how successful it's been elsewhere, he doesn't know how it works, and he's willing to sell it to the public on the basis of a scary lie.
Oh, and it's unconstitutional, so screw your law altogether.