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Utah representatives want to install porn blockers on all cellphones

TechCrunch TechCrunch 23/05/2016 Sarah Buhr

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.

The Senator says England was successful in blocking porn on the Internet. Prime Minister David Cameron pushed legislation through in 2013 requiring UK internet service providers to give citizen’s the option to filter out porn.

However, it looks like England’s internet porn laws have backfired, with some programs blocking rape crisis centers, sex-ed sites for children, and sites actually offering help to people with a porn addiction.

Even if the bill passes, putting it into action also seems highly impractical – it would require major ISP’s and cell phone makers to add special porn filtering software just for Utah citizens. Plus, there are already systems available to parents such as Google Safe Search and Microsoft Family Safety, which allows parents to set up permissions for their kids on websites, games, apps, and movies.

Pete Ashdown, the founder of Xmission, a local ISP provider in the state, called the proposal “unrealistic,” comparing it to censorship in China.

“The Chinese government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into censorship and have failed at restricting what their people can see. I don’t see Utah doing any better,” Ashdown said.

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”

The State also seems hyper-focused on pornography, compared to other states, with advertisments and groups taking up arms against porn. Billboards offering help and counseling to those with a “porn addiction” line the major metro areas along the freeway from Ogden to Provo. Fight the New Drug contends pornography breaks up marriages and the family – something central to the tenets of the state’s main religion, Mormonism.

The group has more than a million Facebook fans and also claims porn resembles a drug addiction in the brain, leaves you lonely and can ruin your sex life.

The Amerian Psychiatric Association does not recognize porn to be an addictive disorder and efforts to recognize “sex and Internet addiction” as a thing have been rejected several times.

That’s not to say viewing of porn doesn’t affect a marriage or relationship and parents do have the hard job of talking to their kids about and protecting them from accessing a plethora of potentially confusing and detrimental content online. But is this a real issue in the highly religious and mostly conservative state? One bit of research claimed Utah had the highest per capita of paid pornography subscriptions in the country. Another study from Pornhub put Utah at 40th in the Nation for looking up porn.

It seems requesting all ISP’s and cell phone makers create filters to keep porn away from Utah citizens is little more than good PR for conservatives in the State. The legislature would serve citizens better by squashing this preoccupation with pornography and instead putting real efforts into educating its kids about healthy sexual behavior.

Kids will find things you don’t want them to – both online and off. Filters are an imperfect solution. Measures to censor don’t work in China and they haven’t worked in the UK.

The legislature would serve citizens better by squashing this preoccupation with pornography and instead putting a real effort into educating kids – and possibly the adults in Utah – about what is healthy sexual behavior. Or focusing on a real public health crisis like the major air pollution problems in the State.

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