Utah Legislature Passes Cell Phone Pornography Bill

Woman holds cell phone
Utah bill would mean manufacturers have to include pornography filter in cellphones – Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

The Utah House of Rpresentatives approved a bill on Thursday that means cell phones and tablets sold in the state should contain filters to block owners accessing pornographic material. The bill was previously approved by the state senate.

The bill, HB72, would require phones “activated in the state” to automatically filter material considered “harmful to minors.” The filter should prevent users from accessing material harmful to minors, enable users to deactivate the filter or allow specific content, and notify users when content is filtered.

The bill also outlines how Utah civilians and the attorney general could sue manufacturers that are sold without such a filter. These lawsuits can be introduced when a minor accesses “material that is harmful to minors on the device.”

HB72 proposes a fine of up to $10 for each violation, part of which would be paid to the Crime Victims Reparations Fund in Utah. Plaintiffs can also claim actual damages, which would force litigators to apply a dollar value to the harm caused when someone unwittingly witnesses pornographic material. The bill outright allows people to make class action lawsuits against manufacturers.

The lawmakers behind the bill seem to accept that technology isn’t perfect, making allowances for manufactures who make a “good faith effort” to include filtering technology. These companies would be given a pass if offensive images make it through the cracks.

The Salt Lake Tribune expects the bill will face constitutional challenges, saying that even those who support the bill admit it is “not perfect.”

Senator Jake Anderegg points out one concern with the bill. Anderegg says the bill won’t work because it forces manufacturers to activate the filtering software. Manufacturers don’t sell products. It’s typically the sellers that handle software on devices before giving them to customers. Despite these concerns, Anderegg still voted for the bill due to not wanting to “be the guy” to vote against the moral stance of protecting children from harmful materials.

Industry groups are fighting against the measure, according to reports by XBIZ, the “leading source for adult industry news and information.” The ACLU of Utah is also against the measure.

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