South Carolina lawmakers propose pornography block on new computers

(Reuters) - Computers and devices sold in South Carolina that can access the internet would be required to have filters installed to prevent people from viewing pornography, although buyers could pay a $20 fee to remove the blocking software under a proposal before the legislature.

The amendment would require manufacturers or sellers of computers and internet-accessible devices to install software that blocks pornography, according to a draft of the amendment filed with the South Carolina General Assembly on Dec. 15.

One of its sponsors said on Tuesday the amendment would help raise money for the state’s task force to combat human trafficking, adding that the measure would not restrict their legal liberties, indicating it would allow for viewing adult pornography.

“This is a way to preserve freedom, not raise taxes and combat a serious problem all in one,” State Representative William “Bill” Chumley, a Republican, said in an interview.

Buyers over 18 in South Carolina would have to pay a $20 fee to have the block removed. Manufacturers or sellers would pay a $20 opt-out fee for each computer or device sold so they didn’t have to install the blocking software, according to the proposed measure.

The amendment did not address any technology challenges or whether the filter would be a barrier to interstate commerce for technology firms that sell their devices nationwide.

There was no timetable for debate and a possible vote. Chumley has told local media that he sees the amendment as a starting point for debate and that the proposal he co-sponsored may be adjusted.

The amendment corresponds with the Republican Party’s national platform that calls for states to get tough on pornography, adding that the internet has become a safe haven for predators.

“Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions,” the GOP said in its platform. “We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography, which is closely linked to human trafficking.”

In April, a Republican-backed resolution in Utah declared pornography a public health hazard and an epidemic that normalizes violence against women and children and makes men less likely to want to get married.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe