This Utah senator wants to punish sites that host porn

"A Porn Addiction is more Addictive than Cocaine!"

Todd Weiler

Last fall, California had Prop 60 on the ballots, which would have allowed anyone to sue porn producers if they did not see the actors were wearing condoms. The porn industry protested, saying the proposition would have drastic consequences for independent producers and workplace safety.

Prop 60 wasn’t passed, but lawmakers across the country have been staging an attack on porn, calling it a “public health crisis.” Utah Sen. Todd Weiler is one of them. The Republican senator wants to change state law to allow people to sue companies that put porn on the internet.

“It’s not government coming in and saying what you can and can’t watch,” Weiler told local station KSL. “It’s just basically a message to the pornography industry that if someone in Utah can prove damages from the product, that they may be held liable financially.”

He confirmed to the Daily Dot that he’s just “trying to protect [children’s] innocence for a few more years.”

Weiler says the proposed legislation would focus on porn addiction among minors and the reality that the internet makes it easier for children to be exposed to porn. In February, he told he believes porn addiction is more addictive than cocaine.

But while protecting kids, laws like this could have drastic outcomes for the porn industry, not to mention First Amendment rights. As it looks today, the porn industry includes a lot of people who are both actors and producers—and who want to keep some privacy due to the high rates of stalking. Lawsuits would make their real names and addresses public information, which many in California feared would encourage stalking and abuse.

Weiler told the Daily Dot he wants the legislation to target not amateur actors, but larger companies. “The legislation is still being drafted, but I don’t see it pertaining to someone who films themselves and uploads it. It’s more targeted to websites that are hosting it and charging a fee for distribution, or a production company that acquired the content,” he said. “It’s aimed more at a for-profit business that are making money from basically distributing.”

He also notes that while there is a federal law requiring porn websites to require age verification, many sites “outside the U.S.” don’t require that. “I’m not an expert on this, but there are some that ask for verification and some that don’t.” However, he does say legislation would make exceptions for sites like Google, Twitter, or other independent ISPs.

In a 2013 paper published by the conservative think tank the Witherspoon Institute, Morgan Bennett argues that protecting pornography as “artistic expression” goes against what the Founding Fathers meant with the First Amendment, as if the Founding Fathers weren’t notoriously horny. But Weiler says that the nature of pornography today is different than it was when you were stumbling upon your older brother’s Playboy stash.

“I think it’s almost ubiquitous access to high-speed sex movies for children,” he said, adding that despite content blockers that parents can install, porn is easy enough for kids to find whatever they want with smartphones.

Weiler says he’s researched the drastic effects porn can have on people. According to Weiler, the U.S. Navy noticed that recent male recruits “have had a hard time sustaining sexual relationships and there’s been a rise in domestic abuse and domestic violence among Navy officers. They hired a neuropsychologist to study what was going on here, and he reached out to me and told me his findings were that it was related to pornography.”

While we found no cited information to verify increased rates of domestic violence among Navy officers, a clinical report in Behavioral Science suggests pornography use could be a contributing factor to erectile dysfunction in sailors that participated in the study.

Weiler argued that 83 percent of porn depicted violence against women, citing a “European study.” In her 2010 book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, author Gail Danes cited a similar figure—88 percent. However, Michael Castleman of Psychology Today argues that’s not true, and that the initial study mistook displays of consensual BDSM for violence.

The question at the heart of this legislation is: Is it the government’s job, or even in its ability, to “protect” children from porn? Can an 11-year-old discern the difference between BDSM and violence? If a pornography website requires a membership or age verification (or one hosted in a country that doesn’t require it), who is responsible if a child gets through? And who gets to draw the lines for what is “appropriate” to see at what ages? There many never be concrete answers for any of these questions. But legislation will ensure that, guilty or not, somebody is blamed.

 

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