South Carolina Thinks it Can Ban Porn (or at Least Charge You $20 for It)

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By Emily Zanotti | 6:02 pm, December 19, 2016

A new bill in South Carolina would “ban porn” by forcing computer manufacturers and retailers to install a porn blocker on every new laptop sold—and then charge consumers $20 to remove it.

The bill, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, was introduced this week in South Carolina’s legislature, and then tabled until after the holidays (presumably so it doesn’t ruin anyone’s plans to buy technology over Christmas).

According to its sponsor, Representative Bill Chumley, the plan is to require manufacturers to either make or install digital porn-blocking software on any device that can access the Internet and, subsequently, expose the user to obscene content.

If a user wants to have the filter removed, presumably because they’re interested in consuming lots of pornography on a variety of digital devices, they’ll have to verify they are 18 or older, contribute $20 to the state’s anti-human trafficking fund, and put their name on the state’s naughty list.

The bill also bars access, completely, to any site that facilitates prostitution.

Chumley says the aim is to protect South Carolinians who, he says, live in a “hotbed” of human trafficking by virtue of being between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia—two places where prostitution is a real problem.

But while Chumley might have honorable aims, he’s light on details and unwilling to explain whether it would be possible to actually ban porn in his state, and how his proposed technological roadblocks (or digital screens, as he describes them) would work.

Chumley is also unclear on exactly who would install the porn blockers, and what, precisely they would block. Since certain types of content, including some types of pornography, are protected by the First Amendment, a porn-blocking bill could pose a threat to the guarantees of free speech.

And since South Carolinians could always go over state lines to buy their laptops, or purchase them from an online retailer, it’s not clear whether Chumley’s law would survive the restrictions of the Commerce Clause, which prohibits major hurdles to interstate trade.

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