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Utah governor signs bill requiring porn blocking on all new smartphones and tablets

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Tuesday signed into law controversial legislation that would require all smartphones and tablets sold in the state to automatically block pornography. To address concerns that the new law is effectively unworkable, it won't go into effect until five other states enact similar measures.

Cox said signing the law sends an "important message" about protecting children from pornography, which Utah has already declared a "public health crisis." The state also mandates that sexually explicit print and online material carry warning labels identifying it as harmful to children. Like those measures, the new law raises First Amendment issues. "This is another example of the Legislature dodging the constitutional impacts of the legislation they pass," said ACLU attorney Jason Groth.

Cox said the delay in implementation will allow the constitutional issues to be worked out. The legislation's sponsor, state Rep. Susan Pulsipher (R), argues it doesn't violate the Constitution because adults will be able to deactivate the porn filters. The legislation "doesn't take the place of good parenting," or "family rules or family discussions," Pulsipher said. "It's just a tool to help good parents be good parents."

Adult film actress Cherie DeVille disagreed in an open letter to Cox, suggesting the point of the legislation isn't really to keep kids — typically more tech-savvy than adults — from watching porn. "Stop using 'protect the children' when your real goal is to stop adults from watching porn," she wrote. "If you want to monitor what your kid watches on their phone, install parental controls that have existed since AOL," and "if your kid still manages to watch porn, here's an idea: Take away their phone. Why does any child need a cellphone anyway? They certainly don't need the state to parent them."