Some iPhone and Android phones could be forced to censor ALL porn automatically

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Your iPhone could soon censor any adult material by law. The state of Utah has passed legislation that forces all smartphones and tablets to filter pornography. The idea behind the bill, which was signed into law by Utah Governor Spencer Cox on March 24, is that all gadgets sold within the state, found in the Mountain West region of the United States, will block all x-rated content out-of-the-box. A code to disable the automatic filters will be sold by the manufacturer of the phone or tablet.

However, there will be an age-verification process to ensure that only those old enough to access adult content will be able to disable the automatic filter. According to the bill, if the company behind the device hasn’t automatically enabled the filter when it’s first activated, they could be held legally liable for any harmful content accessed by a minor.

The maximum fine currently stands at $10 (roughly £7.50) for each individual violation. The bill is a little vague about exactly what constitutes “harmful” content, which can include “any description or representation” of nudity or sexual conduct which doesn’t have any “artistic, political, or scientific value” for minors.

Apple, which is behind the iPhone, iPad and Mac, and Google, which designs Android – the most mobile operating system on the planet, have both built-in parental controls to their software. However, neither of these options are the default. Instead, users need to seek out these options within the settings and enable them.

Anti-pornography group National Centre on Sexual Exploitation, which has been a strong voice in support of the bill, argues these optional filters are too complicated to activate, “leaving most parents helpless to protect their kids online”. The law in Utah aims to flip the dynamic – making the restrictions the default, rather than an optional tool.

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One interesting caveat about the law in Utah, a state where more than half the population are Mormons, is that it won’t take effect until five other states pass equivalent laws. Should none of its neighbours pass similar bills by 2031, the law will automatically be scrapped. So, Utah is relying on other US states to step-up plans to add filters before Apple, Google, Samsung, and dozens of other firms will need to ship their gadgets with restrictions.

In the UK, there is no such law for manufacturers. However, lawmakers have already introduced similar restrictions for internet service providers. So, if you buy a SIM from O2, EE, and others will not be able to visit any known adult websites until the user confirms they’re aged over 18.

Initially, the UK block kicked-in when there was no indication the owner of the phone (if it’s on contract) or SIM (if it’s a SIM-only card) was over the age of 18. This was later altered to apply when the user of the phone is aged under 18 – no matter the age of the bill-payer.

Age verification with a mobile network can be done using a credit card or passport in-store or online.

UK broadband networks automatically block websites named in court orders, however, there is no automatic blocking for adult websites undertaken by all companies. Instead, internet service providers offer a number of parental tools to help customers decide on the level of restriction on their own network. Virgin Media is the rare exception here and does enable filtering automatically for all new customers as of May 2018.

So, depending on which broadband supplier you’re signing up to, you might have to do your best Alan Partridge impression and say “Hello, is that reception? Can you make pornography come on my telly please?” during the initial sign-up process.

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