Cornell Law University defines pornography as, “photographs, films, books, or other material depicting erotic or sexual acts designed to cause sexual arousal.”
In 2017, H3003 was a bill that would have outright banned pornography purchased on new computers, tablets, cell phones, etc. This kind of authoritarian overreach was quickly noticed by several news outlets and the bill didn’t pass. This bill was presented under the guise of preventing human trafficking but included that online pornography was a “public safety” concern. It looks like the South Carolina General Assembly will try anything to regulate pornography including linking bills that have language that bans or limits pornography in with bills that claim to protect children and/or stop human trafficking. As stated before the bill failed…
…but old habits die hard.
H5414. Same Tricks. Different Bill Name.
The South Carolina House has a new bill out there that some would describe as authoritarian and puritanical. H5414 is an internet pornography bill. Now, on the surface, the bill’s description revolves around protecting children from online pornography. This isn’t about protecting children from the dangers of child pornography or being exploited. Instead, this is about children potentially watching porn. This is an important distinction to make because H3003 was about child exploitation while this bill is about, again, children potentially watching porn. The summary reads, “Recognize The Need Of The State Of South Carolina To Address And Take Steps To Protect Its Children From The Public Health Hazard Of Internet Pornography.”
Sounds great, right? The strange part about both bills is that both have different purposes but the wording is almost exactly the same. If H3003 crashed and burned then why shouldn’t H5414 go the way of the T-Rex? We encourage readers to look over the text and the language of both bills. Here is a link to (Click here for H3003) and (Click here for H5414). It is plain to see that much of what was in H3003 is just carbon copied into H5414. Again, the only difference is the purpose. It’s almost as if the last bill was killed because of 1st Amendment and free-market concerns so the purpose was changed to try to preemptively shame any politician that either won’t vote for or votes against the bill.
Let’s take a look into some of the text in that bill and decide for yourself if this is about children or finding a way to limit or outright ban pornography. Here is a quote from several lines of text in the bill’s language:
Whereas, it is critical to recognize the malignant effect that pornography has on society when it is distributed carelessly over the Internet without regard for the disturbing and lasting effects that it can cause; and whereas, the members of the General Assembly recognize that pornography is creating a public health crisis and action must be taken to address pornography in a manner similar to public health regulation used in the past to combat issues like smoking, lead poisoning, and HIV/AIDS; and whereas, addressing pornography must be done systemically by enacting policies that would help to prevent exposure and addiction, educate individuals on its harmful effects, and develop recovery plans while holding providers accountable.
Why is it the job of the South Carolina General Assembly to watch your child and monitor what your child consumes online? Does any part of that sound like it will be applied to just children? What exactly is the long-term goal when it says, “it is critical to recognize the malignant effect that pornography has on society when it is distributed carelessly over the Internet without regard for the disturbing and lasting effects that it can cause”? Sure, children shouldn’t be exposed to pornography. However, if you read the language in this bill you’d get the strange impression that this is less about children and more about limiting pornography.
“Wait, hold up, porn is a public health crisis?!”
The bill’s language describes pornography as a “public health crisis” and must be addressed similarly to HIV/AIDS. Is porn as bad as AIDs?! Is the implication that porn spreads AIDs? Isn’t this the same General Assembly who asked South Carolinians to remain home during this time and now these people have to see internet porn as a public health crisis? No, COVID-19 is a public health crisis. Pornography can be just nude photos and it doesn’t have to be sexual intercourse on a camera. Would the Kama Sutra be affected by this? If your child is researching Ancient Rome and happens to see a naked sculpture will the South Carolina General Assembly attempt to police this as well?
And what gives members of the South Carolina General Assembly any room to tell citizens what kind of pornography they can consume when it is clear that infidelity and pornography consumption isn’t a rare topic in those halls?
Even if this bill was drafted with good intentions why is it the job of the South Carolina General Assembly to do the job of a parent? It is without question that parents or guardians of children can do a better job of monitoring what their child consumes online versus the government. If passed, will this bill be effective at preventing children from watching online pornography as the 18+ labels on music and video games were at preventing children from consuming such products? In other words, how effective has the government ever been at regulating material that children can consume?
Good Questions To Ask
Go ask any gamer who plays violent video games about all the children in voice chats on X-Box Live, Playstation Network, or PC. If the government has categorically failed to prevent little Timmy from playing Call of Duty thanks to irresponsible parents then what exactly is the government going to do to stop Timmy from watching pornography? The parents failed in two ways and more government overreach isn’t going to solve that. Instead, more responsibility should be placed on parents. But you’d only have to go this far into thinking about the bill if you actually believe this bill was ever about children in the first. Was H3003 about stopping kids from watching online porn? No? Then if much of the same language that was in that bill is now in this new bill then wouldn’t the purpose be almost exactly the same? Wouldn’t that purpose be to make online pornography synonymous with a public health concern in order to regulate it?
What kinds of measures will this bill allow law enforcement and the government to engage in? How would any part of this bill prevent a child from viewing online porn on a tablet, phone, or computer? How would the government possibly determine the age of the person viewing this content? At this point, if you believe this bill was ever about protecting children then perhaps it isn’t the children who are mentally underdeveloped.