Legislative initiative calls on tech companies like Apple, Google to filter porn on devices

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – A Utah lawmaker says it is time for technology companies to protect children against pornography. 

Senator Todd Weiler (R) passed a resolution declaring porn a ‘public health hazard’ earlier this year.  Now, he is pushing his legislation a step further, saying the resolution laid out the problem and now a possible solution is in the works. 

It all started when a concerned dad named John Gunter reached out to Weiler with an idea.  

“It just kind of came to a head a couple months ago,” Gunter explained.  

Gunter says he considers pornography a huge problem, especially for kids who are not looking for it.  For years, the activist has educated others on ‘the new drug,’ and most recently, he is pushing tech companies — like Apple, Google, and more — to take responsibility for what Weiler and the State of Utah declared a public health hazard.

“We’ve been working on this for almost two years, and then all of the sudden boom!  [Weiler] does that,” Gunter said. 

After successfully passing his legislative resolution, Weiler connected with Gunter and his team. 

“We’ve already decided as a society that there is certain content that we’re not going to consume… But technology — it’s completely circumvented all of these restrictions that we’ve had in place,” Weiler explained.  

The solution they are now exploring is called COFA, or the ‘Child Online Filter Act.’  Basically, it calls for a change of standard, requiring tech companies to sell devices with filters already installed.

“Right now, we’re putting the responsibility on those who don’t want it.  We have to buy a filter, we have to change our settings,” Gunter said. 

The group envisions shifting the burden to those who want pornography on their products, so filters could be deactivated for adults.  Weiler says the initiative is geared toward protecting children like his own teenage son.

“If he went into an adult bookstore on State Street in Salt Lake, they would kick him out, and yet he can pull his cell phone out of his pocket, and he can watch hardcore sexual intercourse for six hours a day,” he explained. 

Gunter and his group is helping write COFA in other states as well, and while states cannot control these global tech companies, they can regulate the companies’ retailers. 

Weiler says it is still early, and he is still developing a strategy for tackling the initiative next legislative session.  He says he is now putting together a team of legal and technology experts to help. 

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