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US Censorship News

2023: April-June

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Age of censorship...

Age verification for porn starts on 1st July in Virginia

Link Here28th June 2023
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media
Virginia is the next jurisdiction in the United States to implement a law that requires all adult entertainment websites to have age verification measures in place or face civil action. Similar to age verification laws implemented in states like Utah and Louisiana, Senate Bill (SB) 1515 was adopted with virtually universal support from lawmakers in both of the state's major political parties. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed SB 1515 into law at the behest of parental rights groups and organizations that believe that age verification mandates are the best way to prevent minors from viewing age-restricted content, like pornographic sites.

Industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) has filed suit in federal district courts in both Utah and Louisiana seeking to render the age verification laws in those states unconstitutional on the grounds of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. FSC director of public affairs Mike Stabile characterized the law in Virginia as dangerous and and said the organization has reached out to Gov. Youngkin with little results.

The Virginia law suffers from the same technological and constitutional problems as the laws in Utah and Louisiana, Stabile told AVN in an email:

Adult consumers shouldn't have to risk surveillance or secure government approval in order to view legal content in the privacy of their own home.

We are looking at potential suits in every state that has passed this law, including Virginia.

Adult industry attorney Corey Silverstein told AVN that the new Virgina law is foolish.

Virginia's law, much like Louisiana, Utah, and others are not going to survive First Amendment challenges. While these politicians are patting themselves on the back for pushing through these blatant speech suppression tools, they seem to have forgotten about the First Amendment that they swore to protect when they took office.

Virginia's age verification law goes into effect on July 1, 2023.



Unsafe and unfree...

A trade group representing US porn producers files a legal challenge to Louisiana's censorship law requiring age verification for porn

Link Here22nd June 2023
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media

Adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) has announced that it has filed a lawsuit in Louisiana challenging the law that went into effect there January 1 of this year requiring age-verification to access online adult content.

Free Speech Coalition, the advocacy organization for the adult industry, has filed a legal challenge in Louisiana over the state's unconstitutional age-verification law. The Louisiana law gives the state the power to fine sites with adult content up to $5,000 per day, a direct violation of the First Amendment. FSC filed a similar suit against the state of Utah in May.

Joining Free Speech Coalition in filing the challenge are Elizabeth Hanson, a military veteran and spouse of an active-duty Coast Guard member residing in Slidell; Andrea Barrica, founder of the sex education site; journalist, educator, and content creator Charyn Ryn Pfeuffer; and fan platform JustFor.Fans. The parties are represented by Jeffrey Sandman of Webb Daniel Friedlander LLP and D. Gill Sperlein of the Law Office of D. Gill Sperlein.

These laws give the state the power to harass and censor legal businesses, says Alison Boden, Executive Director of Free Speech Coalition. We, of course, support keeping minors from accessing adult content, but allowing the state to suppress certain speech by requiring invasive and burdensome systems that consumers refuse to engage with is simply state censorship.

Seven states have passed laws requiring sites with substantial amounts of material harmful to minors to check users' government ID or other age and identity verification information in order to access content. But consumers have been reluctant to do so, with more than 90% of users abandoning sites that comply with such laws.

Last year, Louisiana passed a law allowing for a private right of action against adult sites without such age-verification for consumers, and other states followed suit. In June, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a new law giving the government the power to fine sites directly, as much as $1M per year.

The First Amendment protects our right to freely access legal content and ideas without government interference, says Jeff Sandman, a New Orleans-based counsel for the Free Speech Coalition. We're fighting not only for adult businesses but for the right of legal adults to use the internet without government surveillance. Showing your ID in a checkout lane is simply not the same as submitting it to a government database.

For decades, our industry has voluntarily and enthusiastically worked with filters that allow parents and others to easily block adult sites, says Boden. Those who wish to can do so easily, and the Supreme Court has ruled that this is preferable to government-mandated censorship. We are again asking the courts to reject these unreasonable and dangerous restrictions on a free internet.



Commented: Brain Rotting In Texas...

Texas is the latest US state to demand age verification for porn websites

Link Here5th June 2023
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media
Texas is the latest American state to implement age verification rules for adult websites. The new law HB 1181 -- spearheaded by Republicans but enthusiastically supported by Democrats, creates a new criminal liability for any website when more than one-third of its content is sexual material harmful to minors unless the site uses reasonable age verification methods to verify that an individual attempting to access the material is 18 years of age or older. How reasonable those methods might have to be and what defines harm remain two vague aspects of the new legislation. But it doesn't stop there.

In addition any adult website now operating or available in Texas will now have to feature one of the following statements in 14pt or above on every landing page:

  • Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, is proven to harm human brain development, desensitizes brain reward circuits, increases conditioned responses and weakens brain function.

  • Exposure to this content is associated with low self-esteem and body image, eating disorders, impaired brain development, and other emotional and mental illnesses.

  • pornography increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation and child pornography.


Offsite Comment: Brain Rotting In Texas

5th June 2023. article from

Sex, lies and bad science as Texas passes a law to restrict porn forcing adult websites to carry spurious health warnings.



A virtual chastity belt...

Pornhub fights back against internet porn censorship in Utah

Link Here14th May 2023
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media
Pornhub is fight back against Utah's new law requiring visitors to porn websites to verify their age by dangerously identifying themselves before being able to watch adult content..

Pornhub began totally blocking Utah-based internet connections' from access to its content when the law took effect May 3. The site redirects visitors to a video message of adult film actress Cherie DeVille explaining that the company disabled access over concerns that the law is not the most effective solution for protecting our users and in fact will put children, and your privacy, at risk.

The Free Speech Coalition, a group representing the adult entertainment industry, also sued to block the law's enforcement that same day, making a similar argument about the trade-off regarding safety, privacy, and adults' freedom to browse the web as they wish.

The group has also vowed to sue over unsafe age-verification measures set to take effect soon in other states.



Tweet tweet...

US appeals court rules that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act still shields platforms from liability for user posted content

Link Here4th May 2023
Full story: Internet Censorship in US...Left leaning media companies cancel the right

A US federal appeals court has dismissed a law suit accusing Twitter of profiting from sex trafficking by not stopping a paying customer from post nude photos of two 13-year-old boys. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals relied on a 1996 federal law that shields tech platforms from liability for content posted by others, a law now under review in the Supreme Court.

The law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, was intended to promote online dialogue and self-regulation by platforms such as Twitter, Google and Facebook by immunizing them from suits over content from their customers, in contrast to publications like newspapers and magazines, which have no such immunity.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero previously ruled that Section 230 shielded Twitter from the families' claims of participating in child pornography and sex trafficking but allowed them to sue the company for allegedly profiting from the traffickers' illegal conduct. The appeals court, however, said such claims were also barred by a Ninth Circuit ruling last fall in a suit against the online network Reddit.



Surveillance in the name of child safety...

The USA takes the lead from the UK Online 'Safety' Bill with its own 1984 snooping bill

Link Here22nd April 2023
Full story: US Internet Snooping Post Snowden...Internet snooping continues in the US

The EARN IT Bill Is Seeking To Scan Our Messages and Photos.

In a free society, people should not have their private correspondence constantly examined. U.S. lawmakers, we would hope, understand that individuals have the right to a private conversation without the government looking over their shoulder.

So it's dismaying to see a group of U.S. Senators attempting for a third time to pass the EARN IT Act (S. 1207)--a law that could lead to suspicionless scans of every online message, photo, and hosted file. In the name of fighting crime, the EARN IT Act treats all internet users like we should be in a permanent criminal lineup, under suspicion for child abuse.

What The New "EARN IT" Does

The EARN IT Act creates an unelected government commission, stacks it with law enforcement personnel, and then tasks it with creating "best practices" for running an internet website or app. The act then removes nearly 30-year-old legal protections for users and website owners, allowing state legislatures to encourage civil lawsuits and prosecutions against those who don't follow the government's "best practices."

As long as they somehow tie changes in law to child sexual abuse, state lawmakers will be able to avoid longstanding legal protections, and pass new rules that allow for criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against websites that don't give police special access to user messages and photos. Websites and apps that use end-to-end encryption to protect user privacy will be pressured to remove or compromise the security of their services, or they'll face prosecutions and lawsuits.

If EARN IT passes, we're likely to see state lawmakers step in and mandate scanning of messages and other files similar to the plan that Apple wisely walked away from last year.

There's no doubt the sponsors intend this bill to scan user messages, photos, and files, and they wrote it with that goal in mind. They even suggested specific scanning software that could be used on users in a document published last year. The bill also makes specific allowances to allow the use of encryption to constitute evidence in court against service providers.

Bill Language Purporting To Protect Encryption Doesn't Do The Job

Under pressure, the bill sponsors did add language that purports to protect encryption. But once you take a closer look, it's a shell game. The bill clearly leaves room to impose forms of "client-side scanning," which is a method of violating user privacy by sending data to law enforcement straight from user devices, before a message is encrypted. EFF has long held that client-side scanning violates the privacy promise of end-to-end encryption , even though it allows the encryption process to proceed in a narrow, limited sense. A 2021 paper by 10 leading technologists held that client-side scanners are a danger to democracy, amounting to " bugs in our pockets ."

The Chat-Scanning Software Being Pushed By This Bill Doesn't Work

But the available evidence shows that scanning software that looks for Child Sexual Abuse Material, or CSAM, is far from perfect. Creators of scanning software say they can't be fully audited, for legal and ethical reasons. But here's the evidence so far:

  • Last year, a New York Times story showed how Google's CSAM scanners falsely accused two fathers of sending child pornography . Even after the dads were explicitly cleared by police, Google kept their accounts shut down.

  • Data being sent to cops by the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)--the government agency that will be tasked with analyzing vastly more user data if EARN IT passes--is far from accurate. In 2020, the Irish police received 4,192 reports from NCMEC. Of those, only 852 (20.3%) were confirmed as actual CSAM . Only 9.7% of the reports were deemed to be "actionable."

  • A Facebook study found that 75% of the messages flagged by its scanning system to detect child abuse material were not "malicious," and included messages like bad jokes and memes.

  • LinkedIn reported 75 cases of suspected CSAM to EU authorities in 2021. After manual review, only 31 of those cases --about 41%--involved confirmed CSAM.

The idea of subjecting millions of people to false accusations of child abuse is horrific. NCMEC will export those false accusations to vulnerable communities around the world, where they can be wielded by police forces that have even less accountability than law enforcement in the United States. False accusations are a price that EARN IT supporters seem willing to pay.

We need your support to stop the EARN IT Act one more time. Digital rights supporters sent more than 200,000 messages to Congress to kill earlier versions of this bill. We've beaten it twice before, and we can do it again.

There are currently dangerous proposals that could mandate client-side scanning schemes in the U.K. and European Union , as well. But we don't need to resign ourselves to a world of constant surveillance. In democratic nations, supporters of a free, secure, and private internet can win--if we speak up now.



Limiting Chinese snooping...

US state of Montana set to ban downloads of the TikTok app

Link Here15th April 2023
Full story: TikTok Snooping...Chinese App comes under fire for snooping on users
Montana lawmakers have passed a bill banning the social media app TikTok from operating in the state. The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte for his consideration.

The bill would prohibit downloads of TikTok in Montana and would fine any entity - an app store or TikTok itself $10,000 per day for each time someone is offered the ability to access the social media platform or download the app.

The state House voted 54-43 to pass the bill, which goes further than prohibitions in place in nearly half the states and the US federal government that prohibit TikTok on government devices. Montana already bans the app on state-owned devices.

The bill's supporters have admitted that they have no feasible plan for implementing the bill and that the bill's constitutionality will be decided by the courts.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, has been under intense scrutiny over user data being sent to the Chinese government and its use to distribute pro-Beijing propaganda and misinformation.

The US Congress is considering legislation that gives the Commerce Department the ability to restrict foreign threats on tech platforms.



Connecticut speech censor...

Connecticut sets in motion a law to set up a speech censor board made up of politicians

Link Here5th April 2023
Full story: Internet Censorship in US...Left leaning media companies cancel the right
The Connecticut state legislature plans to pass Senate Bill 6410, which would see the creation of a censorship board. The board would study online harassment of individuals and government officials and recommend laws to censor speech. The board would have nine members, four of them from the minority Republican Party and presumably five from the Democratic Party.

The bill states:

Such assessment shall include, but need not be limited to,

  1. short term and long term effects of harassing behaviors online on elected officials, public officials and residents of this state,

  2. what state or municipal action is needed to address negative online behaviors that consider a citizen's right to freedom of speech versus an individual's right to be free from harassment including, but not limited to, potential changes in state law concerning additional penalties or enforcement of online harassment, and

  3. establishing guidelines for the reporting of online harassment of elected state and municipal officials that find a balance between making elected officials accessible to the people whom they serve and protecting them from abusive, offensive, or threatening online harassment.

The bill was approved by a committee on March 17 and now awaits a vote in the house.

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