Gov says anti-porn bill has needed message, despite worries

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Salt Lake City. Utah adults can begin signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine on March 24 one week earlier that previously planned because the state has unallocated doses, Cox said Thursday. (Spenser Heaps/The Deseret News via AP, Pool)

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A bill that would mandate pornography filters on every device sold in the state would send an “important message” about keeping explicit online content away from kids, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox said.

Cox didn’t say whether he would sign the bill at a Thursday news conference on PBS-Utah. It marks the latest salvo in Utah’s legislative efforts to curb the availability of porn.

He did say, though, he wasn’t as worried about constitutional concerns swirling around the proposal because it would not immediately go into effect.

The bill specifies it will only be enforced if five other states also enact similar laws, a provision added to address concerns that it would be logistically difficult for after manufacturers and retailers.

“We really want to empower parents,” Cox said. “If nothing else it sends an important message.”

Critics say it raises clear First Amendment flags, but supporters argue the restriction is a critical step as more children have their own electronic devices.

Adults would be able to turn off the filters if they chose.

Combating porn is a perennial issue for Utah lawmakers who have previously mandated warning labels and declared porn a “public health crisis.”

Cox has until March 25 to sign or veto bills.

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