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March 05, 2018

Rhode Island Becomes 2nd State To Try To Levy $20 Tax On Web Porn

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Over the past year, several states have tried to pass Chris Sevier's boilerplate "Human Trafficking Prevention Act" (HTPA), one portion of which would require that all electronic devices sold in a state come with porn-blocking software pre-installed, and the purchaser would have to pay the state a $20 fee to have the blocking disabled. Already, the fee has been introduced in legislatures in South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia—and the latest suckers are the pols in the Rhode Island legislature, where Democratic(!) state senators Frank A. Ciccone III and Hannah M. Gallo introduced S. 2584, "An Act Relating To Public Utilities and Carriers—Internet Digital Blocking," to the legislature on March 1. According to the D.C. newspaper The Hill, "The funds raised from the fees would be collected quarterly by the state and used to fund the state’s council on human trafficking," not to mention, "The state attorney general would be able to file suit against providers that do not block sexual content or offensive material, and could seek damages up to $500." The rest of the article makes it clear that the bill takes its entire content from a version of Sevier's HTPA. While it's too soon to know what Rhode Island's other legislators will do with this bill, the Virginia bill, which AVN wrote about in December of 2016, is still alive as recently as mid-January of 2018, though at last report, it's been tasked to a subcommittee for further consideration. Of course, no version of such a fee can pass constitutional muster, considering that pornography is legal to watch everywhere in the United States, the First Amendment does not permit pre-censorship of internet speech (which is what a $20 fee would amount to), and Chris Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, told Huffington Post that "It would end up blocking material that is protected by the First Amendment." According to that same HuffPo article, "The Media Coalition, which tracks legislation involving the First Amendment, sees the bill as 'nothing more than a tax on content, which is unconstitutional,' said executive director David Horowitz. 'People have a First Amendment right to access this content, and publishers have a First Amendment right to provide it.'" Stay tuned for the first legislature to pass the tax—and the first lawsuit to get it thrown out.

 
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