Utah Senator, Mormon Activist Single Out Adult Sites With 'PROTECT Act'

Utah Senator, Mormon Activist Single Out Adult Sites With 'PROTECT Act'

WASHINGTON — Utah Senator Mike Lee (R) and Mormon activist Dawn Hawkins, CEO of religiously motivated anti-porn lobby NCOSE, are promoting the PROTECT Act, a proposed federal bill that would make adult websites liable for third-party content.

Sen. Lee introduced the PROTECT Act last week. The bill would require “pornography sites to verify the age of all participants in pornographic images; require sites to obtain verified consent forms from individuals uploading content and those appearing in uploaded content; and mandate that websites quickly remove images upon receiving notice they uploaded without consent.”

The law does not define “pornography site.” The definition of pornography is frequently contested, and groups like NCOSE have contended that mainstream publications Sport Illustrated and Cosmopolitan constitute “pornography.”

Sen. Lee’s announcement of the bill last week also implicitly conflated legal “pornography” — however defined — with illegal CSAM and even actual rape, by stating that the proposal “comes as Utah law enforcement announced a 600% increase in cases involving child pornography and sexual contact with minors since 2020” and citing statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This was juxtaposed with an endorsement from the completely unrelated National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), led by Mormon activist and former Republican staffer Dawn Hawkins, also from Utah.

Earlier this year, Hawkins told Utah's Deseret News that “after returning from her church mission, she moved straight to Washington, D.C., and emailed Patrick Treuman, the former chief at the U.S. Department of Justice of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section under former presidents Reagan and Bush. She asked if there was a project on which she could volunteer.”

“I cared about the law and advocacy side of things,” Hawkins told Deseret News. “I thought, we have to stop this problem and pull back how normalized exploitation has become.” 

Hawkins also took credit for the secular rebranding of NCOSE, the religiously inspired pro-censorship group originally known as Morality in Media.

Adult sites enjoy the same free speech and Section 230 protections as other platforms, but Sen. Lee's bill and announcement seem geared towards changing that.

“Pornography sites need to do more to prevent the exploitation that is occurring on their platforms and allow individuals to remove images shared without their consent,” Lee declared. “The PROTECT Act is a step in that direction.”

The bill is also endorsed by controversial conservative activist Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, as well as celebrities like comedian Witney Cummings and former athlete, actor, motivational speaker and anti-porn activist Terry Crews.

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