Hawaii's Legislature Weighing Measures to Filter Porn

Hawaii's Legislature Weighing Measures to Filter Porn

HONOLULU — Hawaii is the latest state to introduce a version of the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, which seeks to restrict access to online adult content and charge a fee.

Hawaii has several bills to filter porn up for consideration. State Sen. Mike Gabbard’s Senate Bill 254 and House Bill 567 by state Rep. Sam Kong are companion measures.

The bills require those who sell or manufacture products that connect to the internet to include a mechanism to block all adult sites unless consumers over the age of 18 pay a one-time un-filtering fee of $20 to access them.

The block could be removed if consumers show they’re at least 18, acknowledge they have been informed about the dangers of removing the filter and the fee to the state.

The so-called Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act  is being shopped around by its proponent, Chris Sevier.

Sevier’s template for legislation has drawn criticism from industry trade groups Free Speech Coalition and APAC, as well as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Even the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-pornography advocacy group, demanded in 2017 that Sevier stop claiming it supported his work.

Sevier claimed the templated bill would protect children and others by making pornography and sites that allow human trafficking more difficult to access.

Local civil rights groups, including the Honolulu chapter of the ACLU, are calling foul to the shopped-around idea, which 34 states have already greenlighted.

“I do understand why so many lawmakers are signing onto it” considering it purports to fight human trafficking,” according to Mandy Fernandes, a policy director of the ACLU of Hawaii, who spoke with Civil Beat, a business and political news portal.

“But if passed, it would amount to an unconstitutional act of state censorship.”

The bill is problematic for many reasons, but in my opinion, the scariest part about it is that it illustrates how lawmakers conflate sex work and sex trafficking and want to create moralistic, fear-based legislation to manipulate voters to buy in to their agendas. This is certainly not a new tactic, but can be effective in making it difficult to have a real dialogue about issues like sex worker rights (which deserve to be addressed and must include the voices of actual sex workers). 

Kristel Penn, a longtime adult industry marketing executive based in Los Angeles who calls Hawaii her second home, told XBIZ that her "hope is that bills like this crumble before they gain much traction."

"They seem positioned for shock value and instead lack substance for actual positive change because of their short-sightedness and faulty logic," Penn said.

The new pieces of legislation are problematic for many reasons, Penn said.

"The scariest part about it is that it illustrates how lawmakers conflate sex work and sex trafficking and want to create moralistic, fear-based legislation to manipulate voters to buy in to their agendas," Penn said.

"This is certainly not a new tactic, but can be effective in making it difficult to have a real dialogue about issues like sex worker rights (which deserve to be addressed and must include the voices of actual sex workers)." 

While such legislation is seen as a clear “nanny state” effort and seemingly outlandish, Hawaii also is considering a bill that bans cigarette sales to anyone under 100. Its new bill calls for raising the cigarette-buying age to 30 by next year, up to 40, 50 and 60 in each subsequent year, and up to 100 by 2024.