Virginia Politicians Looks To Tax Speech In The Form Of Porn In The Name Of Stemming Human Trafficking | Spanlish


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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Virginia Politicians Looks To Tax Speech In The Form Of Porn In The Name Of Stemming Human Trafficking

Every once in a while, you'll come across stories about one government or another looking to censor or discourage pornography online, typically through outright censorship or some sort of taxation. While most of these stories come from countries that have religious reasoning behind censorship of speech, more secular countries in Europe have also entertained the idea of a tax or license for viewing naughty things online. Occasionally, a state or local government here in America will try something similar before those efforts run face first into the First Amendment. It should be noted, however, that any and all implementations of this type of censorship or taxation of speech have failed spectacularly with a truly obscene amount of collateral damage as a result. Not that any of that keeps some politicians from trying, it seems.

The latest evidence of that unfortunate persistence would be from the great state of Virginia, where the General Assembly will be entertaining legislation to make the state the toll booth operators of internet porn. The bill (which you can see here) was introduced by Viriginia House member David LaRock (and there's a Senate version introduced by State Senator Richard Black).

There is a new bill being proposed in the General Assembly that would lock all pornographic sites from your phones and computers, and the only way to unlock them is to pay the state $20. Virginia House Bill 1592 is also known as "The Human Trafficking Prevention Act." Lawmakers who proposed the bill said that by making pornography less accessible on the internet, it will reduce the amount of human trafficking.

It should go without saying at this point that attempts to tie human trafficking to the global pornography industry are specious claims at best. It also seems to have escaped those supporting this legislation that pornography, an entirely legal industry in America, is absolutely full of companies and providers that in no way are involved in human trafficking or any other illegal behavior, either. As you can imagine, the industry is actually heavily regulated and tightly controlled for the obvious reasons. This tax would impact their legitimate business as much or more than any nefarious party that might be impacted. Nothing screams great legislation like a bill that would punish the innocent and guilty alike.

Of course, there's also the fact that pornography, whatever you personally think of it, is certainly protected speech as well. And taxing protected speech is sort of a thing we don't do 'round these parts because, again, the First Amendment. And the people of Virginia aren't going to take kindly to having their rights infringed over specious claims.

“I think that’s a freedom we all have as Americans,” said Grace Owens. “I just don’t see the relevance at all.”

Others say it's not farfetched to link human trafficking to porn, but restricting all adult sites might be going too far.

“I feel there are a lot of side alleys you could go down, maybe only types of porn verses other types,” said a woman named Carrie.

Some people say it’s like the state is punishing you for looking at something perfectly legal that some find offensive.

“It’s like a sin tax, getting cigarettes or alcohol or anything else,” said Charles Plant.

And there's another side to this still. What this tax will essentially do is put the state of Virginia in the pornography business. After all, if it is collecting taxes and tolls for the service of porn, in some way it is itself monetizing that porn. It does this to some extent with alcohol and cigarettes, of course, except that those are physical products already subject to some form of sales taxation. A sin tax on those items, while still itch-inducing to those of us with a libertarian bent, makes more logical sense than a sin tax on internet streamed speech.

So, does Virginia really want to dive into the porn business while infringing on speech and the rights of consumers in the state, all in the specious name of preventing human trafficking?

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