Legislative Attempts to Filter Porn in the U.S. Are Mounting

Nov 29, 2016 10:53 AM PST

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico will join about two dozen other states that will slate legislative attempts in 2017 to force ISPs and makers of PCs and mobile devices to install porn filters.

New Mexico Rep. David Gallegos, a Republican, told NM Political Report that he plans to sponsor such a bill in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

The bill Gallegos is sponsoring is backed by the HTPA, a nationwide group that is lobbying for identical “human trafficking prevention act” laws in all 50 states.

The HTPA, which bears the same name as the legislation, is clear in its mission to create new legislation: It demands mandatory porn filters and payment of a “filter deactivation tax” for the consumption of porn.

“The Human Trafficking Prevention Act makes manufacturers and wholesalers of products that distribute the internet sell their products with preset filters that automatically block human trafficking hubs, prostitution sites, revenge pornography, child pornography and ‘obscenity,’” the HTPA’s website said. “The bill will protect children, families and consumers from exposure to criminal liability and ‘obscene’ content.

“If a consumer is over 18 and wants the filter deactivated, they have to first verify their age at the retail store and provide consent after receiving a warning and paying a filter deactivation tax that will go to fund the state's victim funds and family groups that are combating sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence, divorce and pornography.”

HTPA noted that the “bill has been written for all 50 states and is set to roll out at the 2017 legislative sessions.” So far, legislators in 24 states are onboard with its mission, the group said.

Gallegos’ unfiled bill in New Mexico can be characterized as overreaching as seen in the draft, available here.  

The bill would require New Mexico to declare all pornography a “public health crisis” and states the filters must have the capacity to block anything labeled in New Mexico statute as “obscene.”

Consumers, under the Gallegos bill, could turn the filter off and view such “obscene” material, but only after making the request in writing and proving that they are 18 or older either in person “or through means that verify” their adult age.

The draft noted that products that distribute erotic web content amount to “pornographic vending machines.”

Those who wish to turn off the filter, the bill said, must also pay a $20 opt-out fee “to help offset the secondary harmful social effects,” the proceeds of which would go to organizations that “fight human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, child exploitation, divorce and pornography.”

Those flouting Gallegos’ bill would be subject to criminal misdemeanors, according to the draft.

Despite previous attempts, introducing mandatory filters in the U.S. for objectionable content has never come to fruition, because such proposals would be struck down as violations of both the 1st Amendment and the Commerce Clause, which does not permit individual states to regulate Internet commerce by filtering.

The NM Political Report said that Gallegos has introduced controversial pieces of legislation in the past.

Last year, Gallegos sponsored a failed bill that would have allowed business owners to cite their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse service to customers of their choosing.

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