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Mississippi House adopts conference report regulating minors’ access to online pornographic materials

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

State Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth,

The conference report must now be taken up by the Senate. The provisions apply to public schools and libraries.

On Monday, the Mississippi House adopted the conference report for H.B. 1315, which regulates minors’ access to online pornographic media materials. The conference report must now be adopted by the Senate.

“This is the bill that would allow for school districts, public libraries, to enter into a contract for internet services, as long as the contract provides the means and methods to protect children against being exposed to sexually explicit material,” said State Representative Nick Bain (R), Chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee.

Rep. Bain explained the differences between the conference report and what previously passed the House. He said originally, if the vendor did not provide for the proper safeguards, they were automatically punished.

“In this bill, they do get some due process,” Bain said. “The penalties have a period of time to where they can be cured.”

The House Chairman explained that the legislation applies to those individuals in the age range of K-12 unless they are dually enrolled in some type of community college or university.

“The public libraries must contract with a vendor in the same respect. The vendor must have safeguards put in place to make sure that the online services do not expose to children to sexually oriented or sexually explicit material,” Bain said.

Rep. Bain said what they are doing is already law, noting that lawmakers are simply making the provision consistent.

“We’re just making this consistent with state law and with the federal act that makes it to where schools can’t do this anywhere,” Bain said.

According to the legislation, the state, or any of its agencies, a school district, the Mississippi School of the Arts, the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, the Mississippi Virtual Public School, the Mississippi School for the Deaf or the Mississippi School for the Blind may offer digital or online resources or databases to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade only if the vendor or other person or entity providing the resources verifies that all the resources will comply with the provisions.

The conference report continues to state that a vendor, other person, or entity providing digital or online resources or databases under the authority of this section must have safety policies and technology protection measures that:

  • Prohibit and prevent a person from sending, receiving, viewing or downloading materials that are: Child pornography; materials that depict or promote child sexual exploitation or trafficking; obscene materials, as defined in this act; inappropriate materials depicting or dealing with matters of sex, cruelty and violence in a manner likely to be injurious or harmful to a child; or materials that are sexually oriented, as defined in Section 97-5-27(2).
  • Block, or otherwise prohibit and prevent, access to obscene materials, inappropriate materials, materials that are sexually oriented or materials that depict, describe or promote child pornography or child sexual exploitation.
  • States that the material is obscene if: to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, taken as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest, that is, a lustful, erotic, shameful, or morbid interest in nudity, sex or excretion; and the material taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value; and the material depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, sexual contact specifically defined as: acts of sexual intercourse of any kind, normal or perverted, actual or simulated; acts of masturbation; acts involving excretory functions or lewd exhibition of the genitals; acts of bestiality or the fondling of sex organs of animals; or sexual acts of flagellation, torture or other violence indicating a sadomasochistic sexual relationship.

State Representative Shanda Yates (I) asked why the conference report was needed, to which Bain said they want to extend law to the internet and be more specific.

Yates said she understands the intent of the bill but thinks in five minutes it could be fixed exponentially and be a much better bill.

Rep. Yates made a motion to recommit the bill. The motion failed. The conference report ultimately passed by a vote of 84-14.

State Representative Bob Evans (D) said there has been debate in another state about the statue of David by Michelangelo. He said it’s being identified as pornographic because it features genitalia, along with other works of classical artistry that features nudity and cherubs.

Chairman Bain said there are exemptions about materials. He said he doesn’t think there’s been a problem with art history.

You can watch Monday’s full floor action below.

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This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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