Headlines Montana Bill Allowing Parents Choice Over Porn Access Passes...

Montana Bill Allowing Parents Choice Over Porn Access Passes Committee

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HB429, introduced by Representative Brad Tschida recognizes a parent’s right to make choices regarding the type of content their child can consume.

The Montana House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee advanced a bill to the full House, protecting children from online pornography.  The bill allows Montanans the ability to choose between internet with pornography, and internet where hardcore pornography will be filtered before reaching their homes and phones.  The filtering will only be applied to adults who choose it. Currently in Montana statutes, minors can’t legally receive or be exposed to pornography.  The bill is targeted only to “hardcore explicit pornography” and specifically states it is not intended for nudity, which may be considered artistic and protected by the First Amendment, and videos or other content that are the equivalent of an “R” movie rating. 

The bill allows any adult to “Opt-In” to receiving pornography (allowing all content that they currently receive), and ensures that Internet providers respect customers privacy in that they may not share that decision to opt in or out with any third party.  The privacy and security of search results remains the same as it is today. 

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To alleviate any First Amendment/Freedom of Speech concerns, the bill doesn’t levy any fee or tax, regardless of whether they opt in or opt out. There is no censorship involved – quite simply, any content that is available to an adult today will continue to be available; however, minors and those who opt out of pornography will receive internet service that is filtered but at the same speed, quality and cost as is today. 

The bill’s sponsor Rep. Brad Tschida spoke on the importance of giving parents a choice, saying: “We are extremely grateful that the committee advanced this bill to the floor.  This is a great first step to provide Montanans a choice to protect their children from pornography and keep hardcore pornography out of their homes.”  

He continued, “This is about enforcing existing law – we have laws on the books requiring “blinders” to cover a Playboy magazine in the local gas station, but today minors can buy a phone and stream the most hardcore pornography, 24/7, with no restrictions.  This is incomprehensible.  Fixing this problem is just common sense.” 

Earlier in the week the bill was “tabled” by the committee, mainly after objections from certain Telecom and ISP lobbyists who claimed that the technology wasn’t there to set up a “filtering” option for Montana consumers.  Later in the week, legislators were provided information informing them that the technology is currently available, and filtering hardcore pornography before it reaches consumers is easily achievable, whether the internet provider is a small Montana company or a multi-billion dollar corporation like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or Charter. 

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Anthony Cochenour, CEO of Hoplite Industries in Bozeman, Montana and a leading expert in Cybersecurity and filtering said, “There are no major hurdles in ISP’s/carriers providing consumers with privacy-preserving internet filtering options.”

Rep. Tschida also rebutted the idea that the bill was too complicated to implement.

“We received feedback that there were claims that big corporations just didn’t have the technical expertise to implement this bill.  Our experts disagreed, and showed us that even small Montana companies will have no problem complying using a simple filter called a DNS – or Domain Name Server – filter.”

Tschida continued, “The arguments against this bill simply make no sense – billion dollar corporations with thousands of engineers can’t provide Montanans with an internet option without pornography, but a single mom with three kids, and five to ten internet-connected devices should be able to figure it out, no problem?  It’s absurd to any thinking person.” 

Kristi Wells, CEO of the Safe House Project, a national non-profit focused on preventing and rescuing victims of human trafficking expressed support for the bill, saying: “We are so happy to see this bill get out of committee, and are looking forward to working toward final passage.  Montanans should have a choice!  This is a simple, limited government, commonsense effort to allow Montana consumers the choice to “Opt Out” of receiving hardcore pornography on the internet.” 

Wells also touched on the role pornography has in sex trafficking. “As the CEO of a national anti-trafficking organization that provides escape for sex trafficking victims across American and builds up safe houses…I can tell you that there is a direct connection between those buying sex and Pornography.  Many of the buyers became buyers because of an early formed addiction to pornography when they were inadvertently exposed as a child.  This bill has the ability to put control in the hands of consumers and parents.” 

Simply stated, HB492 is a commonsense approach that protects children from pornography and ensures the same laws that apply to Playboy magazines apply to online content. The bill allows consumers the choice whether to receive pornography or not, and protects children from pornography without violating the First Amendment because it doesn’t censor any content from anyone who wants to receive it, and it doesn’t add any government tax or fee for any content.

The bill protects privacy in consumers’ choice, and privacy in their search history, exactly the same as it is protected today and can be easily implemented by any Internet provider, large or small, with minimal to no cost. 

The next step for the bill is to advance to full debate and a vote on the House floor.  Legislators expect to readdress the main points to the entire House and then the Senate.  




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