Lobbyists Are Using Bad Science To Sneak A Porn Blocker Onto Your Computer

When Utah passed a resolution last year declaring pornography a public health crisis, critics were dumbfounded that such a deceitful measure could sail through the legislature.

The resolution used laughably bad science and outright lies in an attempt to prove that porn is bad for you. Still, nobody freaked out too much. Surely it was a hollow declaration with no influence on the law. Right?

Wrong. Lobbyists and lawmakers in other states are now using the resolution as proof that potentially unconstitutional pieces of legislation are viable.

The model legislation, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, would slap a pornography filter on cell phones, laptops and tablets until users pay a $20 fee. Device manufacturers would be required to put a label on material deemed “obscene” and you’d be blocked from seeing it until you paid what is essentially a tax on porn.  

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to call this a violation of the First Amendment, saying that pornography is a free speech issue.

“This is definitely an attempt to infringe on people’s rights,” said Vera Eidelman, an attorney at ACLU. She called the model legislation “crazy,” noting that lobbyists would like to have a government-managed list of people who had paid to access porn. 

And yet such measures are making some headway. Chris Sevier ― the mastermind behind the act and an avid anti-gay marriage lobbyist who thinks his past conviction on an assault charge is “fake news” ― has already managed to convince lawmakers in 13 states to draft legislation. 

This is definitely an attempt to infringe on people’s rights.
Vera Eidelman, ACLU attorney

The Human Trafficking Prevention Act has problems at every level.

First of all, it’s based on the same “science” behind Utah’s resolution declaring porn a public health crisis. The Huffington Post has previously reported that the resolution drafted by state Sen. of ways, and there’s just no evidence that porn is the same thing as, say, cocaine.”

Yet the flawed characterization of porn as a public health crisis is being used to trick lawmakers. Even the Human Trafficking Prevention Act’s title is misleading because it equates pornography with sex trafficking, and implies that the latter wouldn’t exist without the former.

“It’s scary to frame this as a solution to human trafficking,” Eidelman said. “The only way it relates to human trafficking is the chosen title.”

And what lawmaker is going to stand up for pornography?

We’re an easy mark,” said Adam Grayson, chief financial officer of porn production company Evil Angel. “But this kind of ridiculous legislation has come before, and it’ll come again. If this passes anywhere, what happens is our trade organization has to go file suit in federal court, and cost taxpayers a bunch of money while that state defends its statute. Basically, we end up where we started, which is that there’s no tax. And you just can’t tax speech.”

Critics say lawmakers are overlooking the constitutionality of the bill and sponsoring it because the porn tax would help fund groups that fight human trafficking and domestic violence.

Republican state Reps. Bill Chumley and Mike Burns co-sponsored the Human Trafficking Prevention Act in South Carolina, and Burns told the Daily Beast that he’s “behind the premise of the bill.” Chumley said he helped introduce the bill because human trafficking is an issue that he’s “really concerned with.” 

It’s unclear whether any of these measures will pass. Wyoming and North Dakota have already shot down the versions that have been introduced to their state legislatures. 

But Sevier has said he plans to introduce the porn tax at the federal level this month. He’s armed with draft legislation in states across the country, a handful of supportive congressmen and the measure that got him here: a state resolution that was passed despite bad science and an air of lies.

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