Utah governor signs bill requiring digital devices for sale be blocked from getting pornography

Critics demand that the governor veto the measure because it would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Updated: March 25, 2021 - 1:08pm

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Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox has signed legislation requiring all cellphones and tablets sold in the state to block pornography, sparking backlash from free speech advocates. 

Cox said the measure would deliver an "important message" about protecting children from being able to access pornography. 

The measure was signed Tuesday but will not be implemented until five other states sign similar legislation in order to address concerns on the difficulty of its enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said the bill will likely be taken to court as a result of it being a potential violation of the Constitution.

"This is another example of the legislature dodging the constitutional impacts of the legislation they pass," ACLU attorney Jason Groth said.

Critics demand that the governor veto the measure because it would be a violation of the First Amendment, according to the Associated Press. Cox said he is not concerned about constitutional violations because the measure has not yet been implemented.

Rep. Susan Pulsipher, the sponsor of the bill, said she was "grateful" the legislation was signed. She hopes this will assist parents in barring their children from pornography exposure. She said that the measure does not infringe on constitutional rights because adults can deactivate the filters that ban pornographic content. However, experts still say it raises several legal concerns.

Supporters of the bill deem it as a crucial step in helping parents prevent their children from seeing such explicit content as an increasing number of them have cell phones or tablets.

Restricting the use of porn is an important issue for Utah lawmakers, many of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the past, lawmakers have required there be warning labels on pornography and said that the issue surrounding the explicit content was a "public health crisis." Churches have highlighted what they consider the harms of pornography as well.

Other states could follow Utah in being more restrictive of pornographic content as more than a dozen states declared porn a "public health crisis" in 2016 after Utah became the first to do so.

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