South Carolina Proposes Ridiculous, Unconstitutional Law Requiring Porn-Blocking Software On All Computers Sold In SC [Opinion]

A South Carolina lawmaker, who apparently thinks he knows what’s best for other adults, wants porn-blocking software pre-installed on all computers sold in the state. Manufacturers who would rather not preemptively police what users do with their devices can opt-out, but only after paying a $20 fee — which will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers. Similarly, South Carolina computer buyers who don’t care for their legislature policing their internet activities can also opt-out of having a porn blocker on their computer — after paying a $20 fee.

Further, according to the Charlotte Observer, the proposed law would block access to websites that facilitate access to prostitution. It’s not clear, as of this writing, which websites the bill refers to.

As the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports, Republican representative Bill Chumley pre-filed the bill earlier this month.

“If an end user buys an apparatus, a computer, and they want access to that, they would have to pay to have that filter removed.”

Ostensibly, Chumley’s porn-blocking law is aimed at combating human trafficking in South Carolina. The bill earmarks money collected from fines and fees and funnels it to the South Carolina Attorney General Office’s human trafficking task force. Officials describe South Carolina, particularly its northern portions, as a “hotbed” of human trafficking due to its location between Atlanta to the south and Charlotte to the north. Since 2007, National Human Trafficking Hotline, South Carolina has received 1,330 calls and has verified 308 actual cases of human trafficking.

“The human trafficking thing has exploded. It’s gotten to be a real problem.”

By wrapping up his proposed bill in the guise of combating human trafficking, of course, Chumley makes it politically dangerous for any lawmakers to oppose it. Anyone who wants to stand up for the right of South Carolina adults to access pornography would come off looking like he or she isn’t concerned about human trafficking.

Of course, combating human trafficking by making it more difficult — and costly — for adults to access pornography is like combating cockfighting by making users pay an extra tax on fried chicken. It makes sense on paper but does little to nothing in a practical sense. Further, both the State Department and the Borgen Project have produced lists of ways in which the average American can fight human trafficking; neither of those lists mention pornography at all.

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  • Businesses: Provide jobs, internships, skills training, and other opportunities to trafficking survivors.
  • Health Care Providers: Learn how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims. With assistance from anti-trafficking organizations, extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims.
  • Donate to an approved anti-trafficking group locally or globally.

And while it’s true that many victims of human trafficking wind up in the sex trade, just as many can wind up in sweatshops and other forms of forced labor. Of course, combating human trafficking from that angle would require South Carolina lawmakers to take a harsh look at the sources of the goods and services South Carolinians buy. It’s easier to just go after an obvious and difficult-to-defend product like pornography.

Chumley, like too many other conservative lawmakers across the country, seems unnaturally concerned about people being able to access pornography in the privacy of their own homes. As the Washington Post reported in April, Utah Republicans passed a bill declaring pornography a “public health crisis.” The bill was largely ceremonial, with little to no practical effect. Still, it shines a light on some conservatives’ obsession with behavior that is, frankly, none of their business.

Combating human trafficking is a noble goal. South Carolina’s proposed bill to require porn-blocking software on all computers sold in that state is not the way to go about it.

[Featured Image by Mike Focus/Shutterstock]