Proposed North Dakota Bill Would Ban Pornography on Digital Devices [UPDATED]
A bill proposed and backed by several representatives in North Dakota would ban pornography on devices manufactured or sold in the state.
UPDATE 1/11 1:29PM -- Representative Klemin has reached out to Townsquare Media to inform us that the bill has been withdrawn
The entire proposal can be read here but the law states that anyone who "manufactures, distributes, or sells a product that makes any content on the internet accessible may not sell the product unless the product contains an active and operating digital blocking capability that renders obscene material or obscene performances, as defined by section 12.1 - 27.1 - 01 inaccessible."
The proposed bill also states that, "An internet service provider's router, or a cell phone, laptop, computer, gaming device, or other product that distributes the internet or makes the content on the internet available is classified as a pornographic vending machine and must be treated as such under this chapter"
However, individuals would be able to request that the manufacturer deactivate the filter by doing the following:
- Provide a written request to deactivate the filter
- Verify through a face-to-face encounter that they are legally 18 years of age or older
- Receive written warnings about the dangers of obscene material
- Pay a $20 fee
If the law passes, it would only apply to devices manufactured or sold after August 1, 2017.
As the bill states, "There is no retroactive criminal liability for a person that manufactures, distributes, or sells a product that makes any content on the internet accessible which did not comply with this chapter before August 1, 2017."
South Carolina is attempting to impose a similar law.
Technologically speaking, this would be a very hard feat for technology companies to pull off as it would basically require them to have a database of every single website on the internet that has 'obscene material' and block it. There are likely hundreds or even thousands of these sites. Of course the filter would have to stay up-to-date on any new websites that are created as well.
It's not clear how far this bill will go but it would be very interesting if the bill reached the desk of the new Governor Doug Burgum. As a former executive with Microsoft he likely understands the hurdles of implementing this law better than anyone. It's not clear right now if Burgum supports this bill or not.
We have reached out to all the backers of the bill and will report back with their responses if and when they do. The backers of the bill are Representative Lawrence Klemin, Representative Gary Paur, Representative Shannon Roers Jones, Senator Diane Larson, Senator Janne Myrdal, and Senator Carolyn Nelson
Representative Gary Paur tells us, "My concern was to restrict pornography access for minors. For any other information I suggest you contact the bill’s prime sponsor."
An individual got back to us on behalf of Representative Klemin and sent a link to this website and this video for more information. He also sent us this PDF document with more answers. Much of the document focuses on the prevention of human trafficking. The document also makes note that the $20 fees consumers can pay would go to the state. Manufacturers would be able to charge an additional filter deactivation fee on top of the $20 fee. Rep Klemin says this would be a great money maker for manufacturers.
Rep Klemin then reached out to me himself and added, "HB1185 is referred to nationally as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (HTPA) and is in the process of being introduced in 28 states this year, so far. It is directed towards obscenity, child pornography, human trafficking, and revenge porn, It is about protecting children."
Representative Roers Jones said, "While I will defer to Rep. Klemin for most of the details as he is the prime sponsor, the reason I agreed to co-sponsor this bill is not because I thought it was a great bill. In fact, in its current form I would not vote in favor of the bill. I sponsored it because this bill would be heard in my committee and I wanted to hear the testimony in favor and against the bill and learn more about how the proponent would propose to implement the bill. While I don’t think that pushing out controls to every internet-connectable device in the state is necessary or appropriate, as a parent I want to learn more about the availability and applicability of technology which can be utilized to block unwanted content. The legislative process is a process of floating ideas, and developing policy through the debate that results. I think that this technology could be very useful for parents and school districts and I would like to learn more about it."
Senator Larson said, "Honestly, I signed on to Representative Klemin’s bill because I did like the idea that pornography would not be able to just show up when that was not the intention of the person doing a search for something else. They have to intentionally sign in to receive it. That sounded good. He said that he had been told that the technology would not be difficult. I’m not aware of the burden it would place on you."