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Utah’s Scared of the Internet

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Utah lawmakers are at it again, mulling a legislative crackdown on open wi-fi connections because they make it easier for children to access online pornography.

The state of Utah has been in the news a lot lately for its heavy-handed approach to Internet regulation. The most recent curfuffle was over a law banning the use of competitor keywords in search advertising.

Before that was the proposed anti-porn resolution to create two Internet channels – one for family and one for porn – by cordoning off HTTP for non-pornographic material. The issue came with the usual "who decides what’s obscene?" debate, which will keep it tied up for a while.

The current initiative is built on the argument that kids are tech-savvy enough to bypass parental controls on home computers by accessing wireless networks to "watch porn all day long."

That assessment was made by Ralph Yarro, whom DesertNews.com describes as "a parent volunteering his time to stem what he calls a crisis of inappropriate material over an unregulated Internet," and the head of the nonprofit group CP80 (Clean Port 80), which pushes legislative agendas to create a family-friendly Internet.

DesertNews.com doesn’t mention that this is the same Ralph Yarro who is the controversial CEO of Unix software company the SCO Group, which has waged legal wars against Microsoft and, most controversially, against Linux.

CP80 is not just seeking a remedy to the generational chasm between parental and youthful technical acumen and the blocking of open wi-fi. The group wants Utah service providers to be "community conscious" by not allowing subscribers to publish obscene material, and taking down such material if it appears.

Supporters of the proposal say the state should offer tax incentives to service providers participating in the program, and even give them the equivalent of gold stars for their efforts they can post online.

One local service provider, XMission, is baffled by the logic. The ISP argues that providing pornography to minors is already illegal, making further legislation unnecessary.

Another voice calls for a statewide education program warning citizens of "uncontrolled porn in our society."

TechDirt.com’s "Carlo" thinks that may have the opposite effect:

"We’d imagine that advertising the availability of porn on the internet would run counter to these people’s goals, but apparently not."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has already taken Utah to task on "dangerous" laws. Given that the EFF isn’t afraid of the FBI or the European Union, and has a history of spanking its opponents, Utah may be in for some trouble.

Utah’s Scared of the Internet
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  • GtRl

    If the Internet is beyond regulation; if it is full of adult-themed content that cannot be filtered with any degree of certainty; and if technology is incapable of resolving this issue, than what other choice is there? Allow our children to access all the pornography and other adult themed content–that doctors, sociologists and therapists have already proven to cause behavioral problems–they want.

    With all the cheap and easily accessible Internet-enabled devices that are available today, people who want to keep their communties free from this kind of content have little choice but to regulate its access.

    A hotspot or unsecured wireless network is no different than a community vidoe store that would allow any child to rent any kind of movie he or she wants–including pornography.

    The day people allow technology to bull-over their values, values that have been around for a lot longer than the Internet–we are all in a lot of trouble.

    • Terry

      Get real and take responsibility for watching your children. Take away the expensive toy if it is abused. What a silly effort…

  • John W.

    Ralph Yarrow has a dubious past indeed. It seems he is jocking with his Mormon friends in the legistlature to become a dominant provider himself. Word is that he’s after XMission’s business. Check out his questionable activities with Ray Noorda’s family… who fired him for his improprieties.

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