Utah Lawmaker Proposes Family-Friendly Seal for ISPs

Q Boyer
SALT LAKE CITY — A new measure under consideration by the Utah House of Representatives would create a “Community Conscious Internet Provider” (CCIP) designation for Internet Service Providers that agree to filter content and take measures to ensure users cannot access online pornography or other content deemed harmful to minors.

Under the bill, H.B. 407, the state’s attorney general would create the CCIP designation, which would include a “seal” that could be used in the promotional materials of any ISP that receives the designation.

Seeking the state’s seal of approval would not be without its risks, however; under the bill, any ISP that obtains CCIP status could be liable for fines of up to $10,000 for if it “does not fulfill its agreement” as defined by the proposed law.

Among other requirements, an ISP could be certified as a CCIP under the proposal if it agrees to:
• Prohibit its customers by contract from publishing any “prohibited communication,” which includes material that meets the state’s definition of “pornographic” or “harmful to minors”;
• Remove or prevent access to any prohibited communication published by or accessed using the ISP’s service within a reasonable time after the ISP learns of the prohibited communication; and,
• Comply with any court order concerning the removal of a prohibited communication;
• Maintain a record for two years following its allocation of an IP address of the IP address, the date and time of the allocation, and the customer to whom the IP address is allocated.

“It’s very difficult to figure out a way to monitor the Internet,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork, according to the Deseret News. “I think [the bill is] a positive thing for those who are looking for a site that is dedicated to fighting pornography.”

Attorney Jeffrey Douglas, chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, told XBIZ there’s at least one problem with the proposal: if adopted, it would be unconstitutional.

“They cannot argue that this is designed to mitigate secondary effects of the material, so this would be a restriction on protected speech subject to strict scrutiny,” Douglas said. “The state simply cannot favor one form of speech over another because it does not like the one form of speech. Substitute the words ‘Democratic party’ for ‘pornography’ and you can immediately see the problem with this proposal.”

Douglas added that there is no need for such government-issued seals of approval, because “the market takes care of this.”

“We don’t need a government-issued ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal,” Douglas said. “That’s what Good Housekeeping [magazine] is for. All those groups like Morality in Media can designate which ISPs are ‘family-friendly’ — we don’t need the government to do it.”

Douglas speculated that the bill “won’t get anywhere,” and suggested that it might merely represent an attempt to galvanize a voting bloc, or was suggested by its sponsor to lay the foundation for a future run at a higher office. Regardless of its inspiration, Douglas said the bill would not survive a legal challenge.

“The U.S. Constitution, so far as I’m aware, still applies to Utah,” Douglas said.