What does the Utah Internet Law do?
Utah has recently enacted a law in an effort to curb the ability of minors to access adult materials on the internet.
Specifically, the Utah Internet Law would set up a ranking system whereby parents and others concerned about the content displayed on websites could turn on and off access to those sites indicated as containing more adult content. Though the new cyber law would have no effect on websites based outside the state of Utah, the Utah Internet Law has still faced criticism from a variety of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Why would legislators choose to enact the Utah Internet Law
As a historically conservative state with vast influence exerted by the Mormon Church headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah has seen an array of efforts throughout the years by legislators attempting to preserve ‘family’ and ‘traditional’ values. Politicians in this instance feel that the internet allows unknowing children to access pornographic and violent information in a way in which should not be allowed.
Moreover, politicians in Utah have expressed their belief, through the passage of the Utah Internet Law, that private filtering and parental control options are not effective when it comes to regulating what children are able to view on the internet. These politicians believe that a law specifying and allowing parents to see the rankings of websites prior to children being able to access these sites will effectively curb child access to adult content on the internet.
Why is the ACLU trying to get the Utah Internet Law overturned?
The ACLU views the Utah Internet Law as the Utah state government overextending its regulation authority into the realm of constitutionally protected free speech. Even though the Utah Internet Law would not be able to regulate even the most horrific pornographic images produced from sources outside the state, the ACLU argues that local Utah citizens have every right to express themselves and view what they choose to view without interference from the government.
The ACLU argues further that if parents want to personally limit their children’s access to pornographic or other material, the parents have the right to purchase private parental control programs or enact, in other ways, restrictions on the websites able to be viewed in their household. The ACLU has mentioned the inability of the Utah Internet Law to even effectively explain what constitutes offensive materials. Items that the ACLU fears will be banned if the Utah Internet Law is not overturned include access to medical and anatomy websites, and access to nude art from all eras in history.