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Utah bill that would require porn filters on phones by default could be the first step towards US-wide rollout

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A bill that would require new smartphones to have a default porn filter enabled passed the State Senate in Utah on March 4, raising fears that it could be used as a test case for wider implementation across the United States.

The device filter amendments bill, known as HB 72, will now be put in front of Republican Utah governor Spencer Cox to sign or reject. If passed, it will require smartphones and tablets manufactured from 2022 and sold in Utah to be activated with porn filters as default, if certain conditions are met.

The bill was proposed by two Republicans: Utah House of Representatives member Susan Pulsipher and Senator Wayne Harper. The wording suggests it is designed to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate material. If implemented, smartphone and tablet users would have a passcode allowing them to bypass device filters.

Under the bill, civil action could be taken against companies that don’t fit their products with a filter.

An amended version stated that it would only go into effect if five other US states adopted similar bills within the next ten years, suggesting that the proposers’ aim is a rollout of porn filters on new devices across the US.

This latest legal anti-porn drive in Utah follows the proposal of a 2020 bill that would have required all adult content online to have a warning label. That bill, which would have been almost impossible to enforce, was vetoed by then-governor Gary Herbert, reported Xbiz.

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In 2016, the Utah Senate voted to officially categorize porn as a “public health crisis” that causes unhealthy views of sex and can contribute to divorce.

The HB 72 bill has become associated with religious, conservative anti-porn crusaders. In February, Pulsipher called Eleanor Gaetan, a director at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), as a witness in a hearing on the bill. The NCOSE is a religiously-inspired lobby group previously named Morality in Media, and is one of the US’ main anti-porn campaigning organizations.

Critics have said that the bill would not be implementable. But with such strong anti-porn feeling among many Utah politicians, the state’s war against porn is unlikely to let up any time soon.

“Logistically it just won’t work… but we absolutely will be back here at some point in the future, maybe even in a special session to fix this,” Republican Utah Senator Jake Anderegg told The Salt Lake Tribune, Speaking of the HB 72 bill.

Read next: What is SISEA? And why is it bad for sex workers and porn sites?

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