The Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act is a bill that will make it harder for individuals to access pornography on Internet-enabled devices by making manufacturers and retailers of those devices implement a pornography filtering solution by default.
Support for the bill is growing, with 12 states having already backed the bill – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming – and many others are considering implementing similar legislation.
While many states have been opposed to introducing legislation that prevents pornography from being accessed, support for the bill has been growing due to the change in how pornography is being portrayed. Rather than being viewed as a moral issue that must be tackled, pornography is now being viewed as a public health crisis. Proponents of the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act claim viewing pornography is bad for mental health, sexual health, as well as causing damage to relationships. It has been claimed that the availability of pornography is also contributing to the growth of human trafficking for the sex trade.
The legislation requires all manufacturers and retailers who make or sell Internet-enabled devices to be required by law to implement a web filtering solution on those devices to block pornography, prostitution hubs, child pornography, obscenity, and revenge pornography on those devices by default.
The law will not make it illegal for individuals over the age of 18 to view Internet pornography and other obscene content, but in order to do so they will be required to provide the retailer – or manufacturer – with proof of age. Similar laws are already in place requiring retail stores to prevent minors from being able to view pornographic magazines unless they first provide proof of age.
The legislation is the most workable solution to restrict access to pornography. It would not be feasible to require websites to conduct age checks, as there would be no jurisdiction over website owners based outside the United States. Pornography filtering legislation is viewed as the least restrictive method of controlling who can access pornography.
The Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act will not prohibit individuals from viewing pornography if they wish to do so. However, exercising their right to access obscene content will come at a cost. In addition to providing proof of age, consumers will be required to pay a one off fee of $20 to have the pornography filter lifted. The money collected will go to the state in which the individual resides, and those funds will be directed to a number of groups that are tackling the problem of human trafficking and sexual violence.
Individuals may have to pay further costs to access pornography as retailers and manufacturers will be permitted to charge individuals a fee on top of the $20 state fee for unlocking the pornography filter.
It is possible that the filtering solution used by manufacturers and retailers may not get the balance right 100% of the time. There are likely to be many cases of over-blocking or under-blocking of obscene content. Therefore, the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act requires a mechanism to be put in place that allows individuals to submit requests to have websites and webpages added to the filter if they contain obscene content and have not been blocked. Similarly, if websites containing acceptable content are incorrectly blocked by the filter, it must be possible for individuals to request that the block be lifted. A call center or website must be made available for this purpose.
Manufacturers/retailers will be required to process requests in a reasonable timeframe. If they fail to do so they will be liable for fines.