Utah Lawmakers Consider Bill To Automatically Block Porn On All Phones Sold In The State




Conservative lawmakers in Utah have advanced a proposal that would automatically block pornography on phones and tablets sold in the state — a move that critics have blasted as unconstitutional.

A spokeswoman for Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he “will carefully consider” the measure before a March 25 deadline.

Critics have called the legislation an intrusion on free speech, while those supporting it say the bill is aimed at protecting children.

The bill requires that all cell phone and tablet manufacturers that intend to sell in the state use content filters to block porn.

If the proposal is signed, it could mean that manufacturers who don’t use filters could face up to a couple of thousand dollars in fines, according to reports. The manufacturers could also face a penalty if any child is exposed to the “harmful material.”



Susan Pulsipher, a Republican representative said, “A child that wants to find it (porn) and tries to would probably be able to still,” acknowledging that the bill isn’t a complete solution but added that, “It’s just one step in the right direction.”

Phone manufacturers and retailers claimed filters would be too difficult to apply in a single state, and successfully lobbied for a provision that would only allow the bill to be enforced if at least five other states follow suit.

Lawmakers in the majority Mormon state have previously ordered warning labels on pornography, declaring it a “public health crisis” in 2016. C

According to Associated Press, Samir Jain, policy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based internet policy group said, “You’ve basically got the state mandating the filtering of lawful content. That raises immediate First Amendment flags.” He added that the bill could apply to any device activated in Utah, “raising the possibility that it could require location tracking to activate filters on the phones of anyone coming into the state.”

The filters could also be used to block works of art, educational information and scientific facts about sex, said Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, an adult-entertainment trade group.

Emily Rothman, a Boston University professor who studied the issue, said that content filters can help protect children from being exposed to graphic images, but comprehensive education is the best tool to promote healthy sexuality. A bill to expand sex-ed in Utah failed to pass in the state legislature this year.

“Parental filters already exist,” said attorney Jason Groth of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, “and every Utah parent can decide the level of access for their children.”