Bill could force electronic distributors to install software to block porn

6 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Monday, March 05 2018 Mar 5, 2018 Monday, March 05, 2018 4:05:00 PM CST March 05, 2018 in News
By: Stephanie Sandoval, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY — House members heard a bill Monday that would force distributors that sell phones and computers to activate blocking software to prevent children from viewing pornography. 

If passed, HB 2422, sponsored by Jim Neely, R-Cameron, establishes the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Act. This bill would make it so a filter on electronic devices has to be activated. 

This bill would also create the Human trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Fund. 

Supporters said the bill would help slow down human trafficking. 

Jessica Neely testified at the hearing in favor of the bill. She is a rape survivor and former human trafficker. Now, she speaks at colleges and advocates against human trafficking to raise awareness about the issue. She says this is “the most bipartisan, common sense piece of legislation" that she has seen in a long time.

“Right now, it is illegal to sell pornography to a child,” Neely said. “It’s illegal to promote prostitution. It’s illegal to distribute revenge pornography. It’s illegal to distribute child pornography, but yet in our society it’s done on a daily basis. Do we prosecute the parents? Do we prosecute the child? Who do you prosecute when the child is going across the street and acting out pornography scenes on their neighbor child?” 

Christian Sevier testified in favor of the bill and said the bill is not just about pornography.

"This bill is about making prostitution hubs more inconvenient to access,” Sevier said. 

Sevier said the bill is not anti-technology. Most devices come with parental controls, but those have to be activated by the person who buys the device. But he said that's not enough. 

“So, sometimes it’s blocking things it’s not supposed to be blocking, which is very annoying and then sometimes it’s not blocking things that it’s supposed to be blocking so this is making them have to maintain quality filters.”

Jim Durham with Missouri Rental Dealers Association, Entertainment Software Association and Consumer Technology Association testified against the bill. Durham said the bill “kills the messenger and not the message.” 

Durham said it should be up to the individual to decide whether they want to activate blocking software. 

“Most, if not all, electronic devices giving access to the internet do allow the individual who purchases them to block certain sites," Durham said in the hearing. "I cannot guarantee it can do the constant updates that this bill would require of the store, but it is addressed already by the manufactures." 

Adults, 18 years or older, can opt out of the blocking software by paying a $20 fee to remove the filter. They must show proof of age with an ID. The $20 deactivation fee goes towards the prevention fund.

According to the bill, failure to abide by this law would make it so the distributor is guilty of a misdemeanor and would “be punished by imprisonment of less than one year or by a fine of up to $500 for each violation.” 

The distributor has five days after receiving a report that obscene material has breached the blocking software to fix the problem. If they don't, a civil suit may be filed against them. 

The next step is to vote by committee. If approved, it goes to the House. 

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