Lawsuit Challenges Utah Pornography Declaration

May 23, 2016

A legal challenge has been filed against Governor Gary Herbert’s declaration of pornography as a public health crisis. If the lawsuit were to succeed, tech companies would be required to sell their products with filters already installed. Attorney Chris Sevier, one of the plaintiffs, said that current legislation puts an undue burden on those seeking to avoid pornographic materials.

“When you buy a cell phone or laptop, there’s a burden that’s created one way or the other,” Sevier said. “Who should bear that burden? Should the burden be on those that want to avoid pornography to have to come up with a solution to make the product safer and cleaner? Or, alternatively, should the burden be on those that want to acquire that content? Should they be under the onus to take just the additional steps to access the material?”

Sevier said that the case does not raise First Amendment issues, as the content that would be blocked is already regulated under state and federal obscenity laws. He also said that the lawsuit is not about prohibiting pornography.

“These matters do not involve a prohibition against pornography. It’s constantly framed that way. Pornography is not gone,” he said. “If the tech enterprise is required to sell their product with pre-set filters that automatically block pornography, pornography is still there, it’s just behind a filter shield. You can have access to it. If you’re over 18, and want to assume the risks to acquire it, you can have at it.”

Sevier took Apple to court in 2013 over the same issue. He said that tech companies have fought him every step of the way.

“The tech companies market themselves as being family friendly. The truth is, they’re not. Steve Jobs went to the media and said that Apple has a moral responsibility to keep pornography off the phone,” he said. “So, I sue them, hauling them into for fraud for false advertising and they turn around and are vehemently fighting to not be regulated. The bottom line is this, Apple, Google, all the tech companies want to make it the consumer’s problem. They want to blame parents, they want to blame everyone else but they are the ones that are distributing this content.”

Woods Cross Republican state Rep. Todd Weiler sponsored a resolution back in February that also declared pornography a public health crisis.