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Lawmakers Want to Fund the Border Wall by Making People Pay to View Internet Porn
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Lawmakers Want to Fund the Border Wall by Making People Pay to View Internet Porn

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Another version of the “Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act” in Arizona would charge people $20 to remove a porn block from their devices.

This month, Gail Griffin, an 84-year-old senator serving in the Arizona House of Representatives, introduced the unusual House Bill 2444 that would make “distributors” of devices that allow access to the internet install software to make the offending material not viewable. Users would be required to prove they are 18-years-old or above and forced to pay the Arizona Commerce Authority a deactivation fee of $20 to remove the blocking software.

According to the bill, all devices sold in Arizona that access the internet would be required to have porn blocker software pre-installed, and distributors who fail to do so would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

As with other puritanical efforts to criminalize sex work and regulate pornography, lawmakers claim that this is simply a measure to prevent human trafficking.

The bill would apply broadly to many types of device manufacturers and distributors (in accordance with the bill, “distributor” is “a person that is in the business of manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, leasing or distributing a product in this state that makes content accessible on the internet”). The proposed law would thus apply both to the makers of such devices and the businesses that sell them directly to consumers.

The adoption of the bill would also make accessing “obscene” sites complicated for consumers. For each internet-connected device a consumer owns, the consumer might have to ask a different distributor or manufacturer to deactivate blocking software. Any distributor that “share[s] the method, source code or other operating instructions for deactivating a filter” would be guilty of a misdemeanor. Distributors would also be guilty of misdemeanors if they “knowingly violate” the prohibition on selling products without blocking software.

The money would be used to establish what the bill calls the “John McCain Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Fund.” That fund would “provide grants to government agencies and private entities that work to uphold community standards of decency for the purpose of strengthening families and developing, expanding or strengthening programs for victims of sex offenses.”

The top issue on that list of priorities reads: “Build a border wall between Mexico and this state or fund security.” The proposal comes as President Trump continues his push for a border wall.

Aside from the border wall, the proposed fund would provide grants for physical and mental health services, housing and employment for victims of sex offenses, compensation for crime victims, shelters, family counseling and rehabilitation, and for assisting law enforcement. Grants could also be given to organizations that “prevent and protect victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, prostitution, divorce, child abuse and sexual assault.”

Gail Griffin / tucson.com

Griffin’s proposal is apparently based on a model bill that has been proposed in one form or another in most state legislatures across the U.S. The Arizona bill and the model bill are both called the “Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act.”

Motherboard reported that this is a coordinated effort organized by anti-porn lobbyist Chris Sevier: The legislation’s title is the same as model legislation pitched by  Sevier. The legislation itself is very similar to legislation introduced in VirginiaKentuckyAlabamaUtahRhode Island and South Carolina. It is not clear if he is behind Arizona’s new bill, but he is admittedly behind many of the efforts to regulate porn in at least 18 states. The Arizona bill, however, is the only one that mentions anything about funding a border wall with the profits.

“Sometimes states start with putting a spin on it, I’m working on so many versions it’s ridiculous,” Sevier said.

According to Fox News, the money sourced from the new proposal would then be transferred to the John McCain Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Fund and used for one of any 10 priorities.

A spokesperson for the McCain Institute, however, told Motherboard’s Samantha Cole in an email, “We’re not connected to it in any way and best we can tell from asking those who should know, neither is the McCain Family.”

In addition to the $20 fee to the Arizona government, consumers might also have to pay extra fees to each distributor because the bill says “a distributor may impose and retain an additional charge to deactivate the blocking software.”

The software would also have to block content that violates an Arizona law prohibiting sexual exploitation of children and block websites that facilitate violations of laws against sex trafficking and trafficking for the purpose of forced labor.

Distributors would have to “make reasonable and ongoing efforts to ensure that the blocking software functions properly” and establish a reporting mechanism for people to report websites that should be blocked or websites that have been wrongfully blocked. If distributors don’t unblock wrongfully blocked sites, people could seek court orders to get the websites unblocked.

If distributors fail to block specific websites the state attorney general or “any person” would be able to file civil actions against them and could “seek damages of up to $500 for each website displaying obscene material, or for each accessible website, that was reported but not blocked within a reasonable amount of time.” The attorney general or county attorneys would also be allowed to “seek injunctive relief” against distributors that allow access to websites that should be blocked.

The Arizona bill’s porn-blocking requirements are “pretty clearly unconstitutional,” Mike Stabile, a spokesman for an adult entertainment industry group called the Free Speech Coalitiontold the Arizona Mirror. While the bill’s anti-porn features have been proposed in other states, Stabile said that “the border wall twist is new.”

The Arizona proposal could violate the First Amendment, Ars Technica believes:

Broad requirements to block sexual content, such as the ones proposed in Rhode Island, could violate the First Amendment’s free speech protections. For example, the Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union Supreme Court decision said that the “indecent transmission” and “patently offensive display” provisions of the 1996 Communications Decency Act violated the First Amendment. In that case, the vagueness and breadth of the law resulted in suppression of “a large amount of speech that adults have a constitutional right to send and receive,” the court said.

In order to pass, two-thirds of the Arizona State House would need to vote “yes” on the measure, which reportedly only has one sponsor at present: Griffin.

If a law does happen to pass that blocks adult sites, consumers can mask their locations and access the sites anonymously by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). In fact, VPN’s are a good choice for anyone wanting to browse the web anonymously and access websites that may be hidden behind a firewall.

It is estimated that 28,258 users are accessing porn via the internet every single second. Last week, The Mind Unleashed reported that web traffic to PornHub saw a sharp increase during the government shutdown. While porn is one of the most popular forms of media in the world, it remains forced to the fringes of U.S. culture.

Author: USA Really