back to article Alabama joins anti-web-smut crusade with mandatory opt-out filters

Yet another American state has seen legislation introduced to include mandatory anti-pornography filters on any internet-capable device – or else. Alabama state rep Jack Williams (R-Montgomery) has proposed House Bill 428 that is virtually identical to red-tape put forward in North Dakota and South Carolina. If enacted, from …

  1. MD Rackham

    No way this could could go wrong

    Well, the obvious thing to do is report all the legislators' re-election websites to this central contact that is obligated to block sites.

    And maybe I'll report my neighbor's business website. He still hasn't returned my circular saw.

    Then there's the coach of the soccer team that beat my son's team last week.

    Oh, I know! I'll report the site that you report sites to. They'll have to block themselves!

    Nope, no way this could go wrong.

  2. jeff_w87

    Who wants to bet...

    ...that this guy probably has one of the biggest collections of internet smut in AL and after a bender in the basement he feels guilty and writes these bills up. In the wild these people are also known as fairly typical American Republicans...

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Who wants to bet...

      Yes, I think somebody should tell the poor sod that wanking is not an act against God no matter what he was told as a child.

      1. jcitron

        Re: Who wants to bet...


        I did a bit of traveling through them thar hills across the very deep Republican South. In one state, I think it was either Arkansas or Oklahoma, we saw a gigantic church sharing the parking lot with an adult bookstore.

        Take a guess which side of the parking lot had more cars... :-)

        If they are so bent on blocking this stuff, they definitely have something to hide!

        1. K Silver badge

          Re: Who wants to bet...

          "we saw a gigantic church sharing the parking lot with an adult bookstore."

          Reminds me of the first time I flew into Venice whilst heading to the ski slopes - I saw a church with a titty / lapdance bar beside it... real contradiction, guess the locals commit the "sin" then head next door to repent!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who wants to bet...

        "Yes, I think somebody should tell the poor sod that wanking is not an act against God no matter what he was told as a child."

        Indeed. Onan's crime was to refuse the order given by his father - to impregnate the wife of his dead brother. Therefore the sexual practice forbidden in his name by religion - is actually coitus interruptus.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Who wants to bet...

          Therefore the sexual practice forbidden in his name by religion - is actually coitus interruptus.

          All those Catholics are going to burn in hell.

          1. User McUser

            Re: Who wants to bet...

            All those Catholics are going to burn in hell.

            No, not really. Neither a fiery punishment nor a divine award await us; it just ends unceremoniously without so much as a "We Apologize For The Inconvenience."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Who wants to bet...

            "All those Catholics are going to burn in hell."

            According to online references - coitus interruptus is as bad a sin as the Pill etc in the eyes of the RCC. Apparently those sins include vasectomies. Only ovulation roulette is allowed - their dogma says anything else is thwarting their $deity's commands.

            No wonder many Catholics in the developed world take no notice of those particular sins - I wonder if they confess them every week?

      3. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: Who wants to bet...

        I think somebody should tell the poor sod that wanking is not an act against God no matter what he was told as a child.

        Spermatozoids are half-unborn children, masturbating is genocide!

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Who wants to bet...

          Reminds me of the tale of Bill Hicks' old grey gym sock:

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    April fools

    Yeah yeah, can we get all the unfunny joke articles out of the way already.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: April fools

      "Yeah yeah, can we get all the unfunny joke articles out of the way already."

      2 more days to go, my friend!

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I don't see this passing any sort of 1st Amendment freedom of speech tests. Normal people will roll over and pay it though, until the EFF or someone makes a test case.

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      I wouldn't worry about that, these sorts of laws are not there to be obeyed, they are to be pointed at come election time so these odious fools can say "Look, we're keeping you safe".

      There's no way anyone is going to pay any attention to this.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        >There's no way anyone is going to pay any attention to this.

        Except advertising-supported news sites...

        <emperor-voice>And so the circle is complete</emperor-voice>

  5. bombastic bob Silver badge

    moralists... go fig'

    typical of moralists, to propose restrictive regulation on something they don't understand at all

    (if it were demo-rat moralism, they'd be whining about "fairness" and politically correct speech - both are equally wrong and should be lampooned and pointed out as the really stupid things they are)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now watch Alabama's taxes dry up.

    If every internet capable device sold in Alabama has to have the filter, then no merchant with an ounce of sense will sell any such device in Alabama any longer.

    Every mom & pop store, every big box electronics retailer, & any online retailer like Amazon, Ebay, etc will refuse to sell to anyone that tries to use an Alabama address.

    "We're sorry but we can not sell this item to you. Your State laws make it impossible for us to do so. If you feel this is wrong then please contact your State Representatives. Thank you, Signed, $Merchant)."

    All Alabama residents will have to go across state lines to purchase such devices from a state without such nanny-fucking-tastic laws in place, at which point Alabama's tax revenues will take a MASSIVE hit to their bottom line.

    The law makers will whine & blame everyone but themselves for the state budget shortfalls, ignoring the fact that they shot themselves in the foot of their own volition.

    Dear Law Makers, stop passing nanny laws & do what we're paying you to do: the nanny-fucking-tastic stuff is NOT it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Now watch Alabama's taxes dry up.

      Exactly. Go across state lines and buy your gear there.

      End of tax revenue.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Now watch Alabama's taxes dry up.

        +1 Beat me to it ;-}

        I wonder how much it costs to prosecute someone for this kind of (selling an unfiltered device) crime? I have to think the fine won't cover all the costs of all the agencies that have to have their finger in the pot...

    3. Suricou Raven

      Re: Now watch Alabama's taxes dry up.

      The online retailers can simply withdraw all their operations from Alabama. It's already common practice to locate the business in whichever states offer the lowest tax rate, regardless of where the goods are bought or sold.

    4. druck Silver badge

      Re: Now watch Alabama's taxes dry up.

      And then watch for the next bill which is to prevent the trafficking of non porn filtered internet devices across state lines (Class Z felony, $1bn fine, 100,000 years hard labour with no prospect of parole).

      Welcome to Prohibition 2.0TM

  7. frank ly Silver badge

    Nice work on the final paragraph

    I smiled :)

  8. herman Silver badge

    The $20 is much less than the cost of such a service, so it amounts to a selective sales tax on certain electronics.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean that

    The term for an un-filtered Internet device would be an "Alabama hot pocket" ?

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers

    Oh Alabama!

  11. DougS Silver badge

    Please please please

    I really want these bills to succeed, and the states to take prosecution of them seriously. Let's see how it works out for them when no one will sell any electronic devices in the state, and their voters are forced to cross state lines to buy an iPhone or a Dell, sending their sales tax revenue to neighboring states.

  12. Suricou Raven


    So a retailer provides a device, and now becomes liable for a fine of $500 for every porn site on the internet that their filter fails to block? That's one hell of a fine.

    If this passes - which it may well, because Alabama works hard to maintain its reputation - then it's just going to be tied up in court for years. Once it gets out of that, no retailer in the state is going to be able to risk selling computers, phones or games consoles any more - unless they have the big pockets to defend themselves in court. You'll see a lot more people buying from Amazon - and no Amazon warehouses in Alabama.

  13. Suricou Raven

    Just spotted more idiocy.

    It actually gets a lot worse. If you read the law itsself, you can see that it's really badly written - due to some very broad definitions within the law, it's scope is actually far, far wider than you might think.

    "Section 2. (a) On and after January 1, 2018, a person may not sell a device unless it contains an active filter that blocks or restricts Internet access to sites containing any of the following: Blah"

    Look up the definitions.

    "DEVICE. A cellular telephone, computer, data communications device, or other product manufactured, distributed, or sold in this state that provides Internet access."

    "DATA COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE. An electronic device that receives electronic information from one source and transmits or routes it to another, including, but not limited to, any such bridge, router, switch, or gateway."

    So it's not just computers and phones. It includes every bridge, router, switch and gateway, by the above definitions contained within the proposed law. Devices for which it is impossible to install a filter. Nor can the manufacturer simply pay the $20 it's-not-a-tax-really on the user's behalf: The user needs to request in writing that the filter, which does not exist, be deactivated first.

    Oh, and it gets worse.

    "COMPUTER. An electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions and includes any data storage facility or communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with such device. The term includes: Any online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board; any electronic storage device, including a floppy disk or other magnetic storage device;"

    Congratulations, Alabama. You have a law which, if passed, will impose a one-year jail term for anyone who sells a blank USB stick. Ten years if to a minor.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just spotted more idiocy.

      "COMPUTER. [...] The term includes: Any online service, Internet service, or local bulletin board; any electronic storage device, including a floppy disk or other magnetic storage device;""

      None of those are computers. WTF does this random collection of words mean?

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: Just spotted more idiocy.

        @Dan 55 IThis "random collection of words" are the definition of a 'Computer' under the heading of 'Devices' in the proposed Bill that will have to have filters installed. To put it another way, this is not a very-well thought-out piece of legislation.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple Amazing...

    What America can find time for:

    .....How about funding for underprivileged kids education...

    .....Blocking firearms sales from crooked suburban dealers...

    .....Jailing banksters / while collar crims / tax refund scammers...


    Nah that's all against gods law!

  15. mics39


    Mandatory full burkas for all females over age 5.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Next

      WHAT? You want to look at uncovered females under the age of 5 - STONE HIM!

      1. mics39

        Re: Next

        Oooops, didn't consider that angle.

        Mustn't forget to think about the children.

        But even Saudi don't require 5 year old girls in full burkas yet, do they?

  16. malle-herbert Silver badge

    No smut and no porn...

    Makes Jack a dull boy...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Alabama

    Sex is conducted thus:

    - Between a married christian man and a woman (only)

    - In the dark

    - Via hole in the sheet

    - Silently

    Thus spake the imaginary (white) sky-dude.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: In Alabama

      - Between a married christian man and a woman (cousin or sister)

  18. James 51 Silver badge

    Can he also pass a law requiring device sellers to invent FTL drives?

  19. Potemkine Silver badge

    Sweet Home Alabama

    Generally, the harsher is anti-sex repression, the more pervert are the people.

    Behind the curtain it must be really hot in Alabama!

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Sweet Home Alabama

      Try this version and if you find it needs an explanation just ask me.

  20. MJI Silver badge

    What a backwards place.

    Not sure what to say, but so incredibly backwards.

    I am surprised this moron has even heard of computers.

  21. Rimpel

    Wow the bill has just 27 lines per page and a giant font (courier why???). Guess his eyesight is failing, maybe it is true that it makes you go blind after all.

    From the definition of obscene material it states "The term includes material to which ALL of the following apply". If so the 4th clause thwarts it's application to most things.

    (9) OBSCENE MATERIAL. a. The term includes material to which all of the following apply:

    1. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.

    2. Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions.

    3. Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

    4. Facilitates or promotes prostitution, assignation, human trafficking, or sexual cyberharassment.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      So if the ads for hookers are written in haiku form (not as a limerick, while that would be fitting, we all know that limericks have no artistic value) then it fails #3. Depictions of "Golden Showers" can also be cleared by #3, as political satire. It seems the only category that ticks all four boxes is revenge porn.

      Someone needs to teach these law-writers about Boolean Algebra and formal logic. - Or not, so they keep making loopholes like this.

  22. Snowy Silver badge


    Just have all devices not connect to anything until the "filter" is removed. Smut being everywhere and if you can not connect to anything your safe all the time!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're looking in the wrong place.

    It's not the morons that propose these laws you have to worry about, it's the morons that vote for them.

    You get what you vote for, stop whinging!

  24. handleoclast

    It's not a bug, it's a feature

    This legislation, if passed, will drastically reduce the availability of internet access in Alabama. And that's a feature, not a bug.

    Internet access means that your average undereducated Alabaman may stumble across websites causing him/her to question many things: Are Republican politicians corrupt, greedy bastards who steal from the poor to give to the rich? Is Donald Trump sane? Was it a good idea to marry my sister? Are black people really inferior? Is there really a God?

    Jack Williams' career, and the careers of many politicians and Talibangelicals, depends upon people NOT questioning those things. So he wants to put Alabamans in a bubble and justifies it by saying he's protecting them.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's not a bug, it's a feature

      Have an upvote - purely for the neologism "Talibangelicals"

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is NOT the majority view in Alabama

    Settle down, folks. You can always count on at least one fringe legislator to introduce crazy legislation. It hasn't passed yet, and I don't believe it will. This is a case of a desperate special interest trying hard to reassert the control they have thoroughly lost.

    It's actually a good thing that anyone can introduce any kind of legislation they like. Doesn't mean it has a snowball's chance of passage though.

    So stop with the "BURKAS NEXT YEAR" comments, Alabama is not the Middle East, the sky is not falling. It might! But not today.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This is NOT the majority view in Alabama

      "Alabama is not the Middle East,"

      FWIW, Alabama is about half way across the eastern half of the continent. That fits nicely for some definition of being in the middle of the east :-)

  26. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Any sale?

    So, the "space clam" iBook I bought from the thrift store (supporting social services for seniors), for $40, needs a filter? I'll let Apple know so they can get right on it. How about that WAP-enabled (original) Razr my brother-in-law gave me? Is he guilty of something, or am I?

    Of course, I don't live in AL, or intend to, but these things have a sort of momentum.

    1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Any sale?

      If its a duplicate of the others, its just new sales. Which means that Alabama is going to be stuck with this years technology until they repeal such moronic legislation.

      Of course, that does bring up the question of devices that can connect to the internet, but certainly aren't consumer devices. I have a set of Linux appliances that have HTTP rendering engines built into them (to preview the page and identify any potential unwanted content such as viruses and scam sites and the like)

  27. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Not the only moronic ban in Alabama

    Alabama also bans sex toys, well technically its not a ban, but they are reclassified as medical devices and thus require a doctor to write a prescription / give permission to own one.

    Of course that hasn't stopped anyone at all, but has led to a massive increase in the spread of disease as well as increase in injury. Diseases are spread due to sharing and the injuries are from people trying to make their own or using other objects that are certainly not intended for the task at hand...

    1. earl grey Silver badge

      Re: Not the only moronic ban in Alabama

      "using other objects "

      Shovels and rakes are not replacement for hoes.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Not the only moronic ban in Alabama

    Wonder if an SDR would be classed as an "internet connected device" ?

    If so, add angry amateur radio enthusiasts and electronics nerds to the growing crowd with pitchforks and flaming torches...

    But seriously, which eejit thought this up?

    Mine's the coat with the Fleshlight(tm), mobile hard drive with TorrentArcReactor(tm) power source and a copy of the "Narcissists Cookbook".

  29. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    If I move to Alabama and buy a computer which by default comes with Windows and a filter, but I install Linux, do I still have to pay the 20 bucks? What if I sell it on as used? Do I have to put Windows and the filter back on?

  30. earl grey Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    masturbating is genocide

    I'll get the swallow right on it.

    She knows.

  31. Garymrrsn

    After the repeal of prohibition it was the bootleggers and preachers that paid politicians to keep Alabama dry. Today it is drug dealers and preachers paying the politicians to keep pot illegal.

    This is nothing more than pay back to this idiots campaign funders.

    Welcome to Alabama

    Home of the cheapest politicians money can buy.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Big Brother

      A small correction

      Today it is drug dealers and preachers paying the politicians to keep pot illegal.

      You forgot to mention the for-profit prison companies that make more money the more inmates they have. If pot became legal then the prison population would drop, and they would lose money.

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