Utah Lawmakers Literally Think Porn is a "Public Health Hazard"

Claire Bernish
April 19, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Utah — Utah isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of socially lenient legislation, but Governor Gary R. Herbert plans to chisel in stone the state’s erstwhile Puritanical reputation by signing two pieces of legislation to combat the “sexually toxic environment” ostensibly induced by pornography.

Sexually explicit material — its long and storied history notwithstanding — would be deemed in Utah “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms,” should Herbert follow through on a promise to sign S.C.R. 9 into law.

This brief but surprisingly comprehensive list of the ills of pornography includes generally accepted theories about the objectification of women, alongside more hotly-contested links between porn and violence. But S.C.R. 9 delves into the arguably unfounded, as well.

According to the Concurrent Resolution on the Public Health Crisis — which proudly declares itself the first legislation of its kind in the U.S. — porn can detrimentally “impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining intimate relationships, as well as problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction.”

Though this resolution places no legal strictures on pornography — it isn’t a ban on porn — listing unfounded theoretical generalizations will, of course, present numerous challenges to what many consider a personal freedom frankly deserving privacy. In fact, listed with multiple potentially toxic effects on women and children are a few lines equating porn’s users to hapless, helpless addicts who must need the assistance of a nanny-state government’s intervention to break their habit — which, as anyone familiar with Prohibition will recognize, is a thoroughly useless endeavor.

But this is Utah, and there is an additional proposed legislation in the form of a bill with teeth.

House Bill 155, titled Reporting of Child Pornography, appears to have the commendable aim of ending child pornography — but its method of doing so should seriously concern privacy advocates and small business owners.

If H.B. 155 should become law, computer technicians will essentially become de facto arms of the surveillance state, as they would be required to “immediately” report to law enforcement “any” images of child pornography found on a client’s computer. As the bill’s text states:

“A computer technician who willfully does not report an image” to their employer, an appropriate law enforcement agency or the “Cyber Tip Line at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children … is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.”

In Utah, that failure to report would be considered on par with “assault, resisting arrest, DUI, reckless driving,” and carrying a concealed weapon, among other offenses. It could land the technician up to a $1,000 fine and/or a six-month jail sentence.

Utah, in other words, essentially stands poised to make not telling on one’s neighbor a crime punishable by time behind bars. Despite the obvious noble intent behind this legislation, setting such a precedent could create an inexhaustible ripple where reporting could be mandated for any number of items discovered on a user’s personal, private computer. Further, it places an enormous burden on technicians whose business depends on client confidentiality.

But Utah wouldn’t be first in the nation to enact such harsh penalties for the reporting requirements by third parties; at least 12 other states have similar laws already on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislators as cited by the Associated Press.

Dan Liutikas, chief legal officer for the IT trade industry group CompTIA, told the AP that penalties for computer techs failing to report child porn range from small fines to a felony charge, as is the case in Michigan, where the punishment could garner up to a $50,000 fine and seven years in jail.

But Liutikas feels such laws are unnecessarily redundant, because, as he explained, “If IT folks run across child pornography, I think they would instinctively try to report that to the police.”

Representative Craig Hall, who spearheaded the bill after noticing the other states’ laws, ardently disagrees.

“This will help our ongoing efforts to fight the horrendous crimes of manufacturing and distributing child pornography,” he asserted in January, prior to helping introduce the legislation.

Pornography will remain a touchy subject in this nation so thoroughly yet ambiguously rooted in strict religious doctrine — whether or not insidious laws attempt to quash its existence by force. In fact, two years ago, academia officially began its first journal on the topic, called “Porn Studies.”

Whether laudable or laughable, Utah’s penchant for piety might not be everything it boasts.

As CNN pointed out, a 2009 study by Harvard Business School revealed the state with “the highest per capita purchasers of online adult entertainment” was, you guessed it, Utah.


This article (Utah Lawmakers Literally Think Porn is a “Public Health Hazard”) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Since you’re here…

…We have a small favor to ask. Fewer and fewer people are seeing Anti-Media articles as social media sites crack down on us, and advertising revenues across the board are quickly declining. However, unlike many news organizations, we haven’t put up a paywall because we value open and accessible journalism over profit — but at this point, we’re barely even breaking even. Hopefully, you can see why we need to ask for your help. Anti-Media’s independent journalism and analysis takes substantial time, resources, and effort to produce, but we do it because we believe in our message and hope you do, too.

If everyone who reads our reporting and finds value in it helps fund it, our future can be much more secure. For as little as $1 and a minute of your time, you can support Anti-Media. Thank you. Click here to support us

    0