Porn as a Public Health Crisis in Utah: Jumping to Conclusions?

26th April 2016 Crista Renouard News No comments

On April 20th, 2016 Governor Gary Herbert of the state of Utah, citing various sources of ‘evidence’, signed a resolution calling pornography a 'health hazard'. The text of the bill, which only runs to 69 lines, in fact consists of a list of assumptions, without associated evidence, about the availability and impact of pornography on young people.

22725566840_765606cd78_o-600x338.jpgWhile Concurrent Resolutions have little true effect (this one is specifically marked as not initiating any new spending or programs) they do often reflect the broad mood of public opinion. In response to the resolution the statewide Utah PTA published its own conclusions calling for the release of funding for projects to screen and filter the internet.

 

Smoothwall has been promoting the sensible use of filtering to provide appropriate access to the internet for students of all ages for more than ten years. The issue with building policies based on an incendiary set of premises is the the definition of what is appropriate becomes a political issue. Based on the Utah legislation of April 2015 that explicitly banned advocacy for the use of contraception, we might expect a sweeping definition.

 

The more stringent the policies applied to internet access, the more likely schools are to run up against First Amendment issues and potential action from bodies like the ACLU. In addition, we know from first hand experience that students see filters as a technical challenge to breach and without real time control this can be trivially easy. A situation like this can lead to a surface image of tight control with unchecked access in the background.

As a provider of filtering we recognize that our customers get to choose the policies they apply and to define what is and isn’t acceptable. At the same time, the reason we build policy controls that allow a single student, at a specific time, in a specific location to have access to specific content is because we see the world is not black and white.

We hope then that policy makers and educators in Utah and elsewhere can make decisions based on evidence rather than provocative rhetoric. Previous experience,however, does suggest that where sex and young people are concerned, cool heads don’t always prevail.

Photo: "welcome to Utah" by Nancy <I'm gonna SNAP! is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Crista Renouard