Providence, RI — Residents of Rhode Island will have to register with the state and pay a $20 fee to access sexually explicit content online if a recently proposed bill passes the General Assembly.

The highly Orwellian bill, introduced by Sen. Frank Ciccone, D-Providence, and Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston last week will require internet providers to digitally block pornography in the entire state. In order to remove this block, residents of Rhode Island would have to pay a $20 fee to the state.

What’s more, the bill actually targets hardware. It would require all internet-enabled devices sold in the state to come with “a digital blocking capability that renders inaccessible sexual content and/or patently offensive material.”

When rereading the above statement, the term “patently offensive material” can be interpreted in any number of ways. And, if history is any indicator, lawmakers would most likely abuse the loose language to simply snub out content they don’t like.

The state currently defines “patently offensive” as material “so offensive on its face as to affront current standards of decency.”

According to The Herald News, each quarter the internet providers would give the money made from the deactivation fees to the state’s general treasurer, who would forward the money to the attorney general to fund the operations of the Council on Human Trafficking, according to the bill’s language.

If online distributors of sexual content do not comply with the filter, the attorney general or a consumer could file a civil suit of up to $500 for each piece of content reported, but not blocked, according to the bill.

The requirements to remove the filter are ominously written and require the following if the consumer wishes to deactivate it:

  1. Requests in writing that the capability be disabled;
  2. Presents identification to verify that the consumer is eighteen (18) years of age or older;
  3. Acknowledges receiving a written warning regarding the potential danger of deactivating the digital blocking capability; and
  4. Pays a one-time twenty-dollar ($20.00) digital access fee.

Presenting the bill under the guise of preventing human trafficking is not at all convincing as all the sites which promote or engage in such activities are already illegal.

 Also as Reason points out, what makes all of this especially ridiculous is that under Ciccone and Gallo’s proposal, anyone over 18-years-old could have the filter removed by making a request in writing and paying a $20 fee. The money would go to the state’s general treasury “to help fund the operations of the council on human trafficking.” (But… if people are paying the state $20 to access prostitution sites, doesn’t that make the state a trafficker?)

It is estimated that 28,258 users — every single second — access porn on the internet. Those numbers are staggering and allowing government access to all those identities would be a death blow to online privacy not to mention create a slippery slope of algorithmic censorship the likes of which we’ve never seen.

To people who think that this move would be far-fetched, a similar law has already been passed in the UK, forcing all UK citizens who watch porn to register with the government.

What’s more, as TFTP reported earlier this year, citizens of the state of Virginia may have to start paying the government a fee in order to access adult websites too. Their Orwellian and unconstitutional bill is also being presented under the guise of the prevention of human trafficking. Lawmakers in the state recently proposed Virginia House Bill 1592, which is also known as “The Human Trafficking Prevention Act.”

Advocates of the bill claim that locking pornographic sites behind a $20 paywall will somehow prevent human trafficking. However, the bill has created a great deal of controversy in the state, as many people rightfully see this as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of their rights. Also, there has been no real explanation from the government as to how they determined that pornography was related to human trafficking.

Summing up the likely real reason behind this bill, Reason aptly points out, the fact that lawmakers think blocked “patently offensive” material should be able to be accessed for a low price just shows how toothless their proclamations that the legislation is necessary to protect public health or morals. But what lawmakers would get out of the measure is a nice new source of steady income and a registry of people who want the filter removed.

Article posted with permission from The Free Thought Project

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