Utah Governor Signs Device Filtering Bill

Here is a very interesting development regarding filters:

This bill “requires manufacturers of smartphones and tablets activated in the state of Utah to enable existing filters that block out sexually explicit material that is “harmful to minors” under Utah law.”

So when you buy an iPad in the state of Utah, Parental Controls will be turned on by default. I think that’s a win.

Now, how could this be used against Christians? Well, once Warhorn Media or Sanityville are classified as hate speech, then they are no longer accessible by default when you buy an iPad. But I don’t think that’s a problem with the law. The fact that we call good evil and evil good is a more fundamental problem that won’t be solved by a filter.

The most recent discussion we had about this is here.


The civil magistrate has an interest in a society that honors God, meaning a society where sexually explicit media is hard to access. Look up the laws in Israel, for example. Israel, of all places. It’s entirely legitimate for them to do this.

I’m not persuaded in the least by arguments about pluralism and the public square and “they will just do this to us too!” Yeah, they’re already doing it to us. French Davidianism isn’t persuasive to me at all, although it used to be.

It isn’t enough to have a society where you are free to choose good; you need a society that honors the good and makes it easier for you to get there. Secularism/pluralism is out of gas. Even the Left knows this now.


I do applaud Utah’s action on this, but the problem is that filters are terrible. It’s basically impossible to not have either an enormous number of false positives or an enormous number of false negatives.

A copyright holder can have his pirated work removed from the everyday Internet within a matter of hours with a bit of paperwork. But a parent can’t let his kid do research for a school project without close supervision.

Disney’s shareholders’ interests are protected, marriages and families are not. This tells you all you need to know about 21st Century America.

Haven’t decided how optimistic to be on this one yet. Filters are good, but not sure how thrilled I am when its the government getting involved in mandating control of those filters. The emphasis in this legislation seems to be on enabling “existing filters” on the big tech mobile operating systems by default, rather than having them disabled by default. If that’s the extent of it, fine, but what happens now? Is the next step for the state to get involved in management of the filters, themselves? And if someone creates something like, say, a new Linux-based cellular OS to compete with Google and Apple tomorrow, will they be obligated to create certain filters at the OS level which satisfy the state before they can do business? How does this not eventually culminate in a government-controlled filtering agency?

I will be interested to see how compliance is handled. I doubt Apple, Google, and the cellular OEM’s and carriers want to maintain Utah-specific versions of software and firmware roll-outs for their devices. The bill talks about devices requiring this filter enablement when they are “activated in the state.” Well, what does “activation” mean? Are we talking about phone and tablets being activated on a cellular provider’s network? Or are we talking about when a user fires up an Android or iOS device out of the box and simply sets it up, and hits that screen where it asks you to define region? The only Android and iOS devices that have to be “activated” on a cellular network are CDMA phones. Tablets can be run without location services, and GSM phones bind cellular provisioning to the SIM, not the device itself.

I haven’t read the bill in its entirety, but I would lazily suspect that “activation” is left kind of nebulous. (EDIT: I continued reading and found, (1) “Activate” means the process of powering on a device and associating it with a new user account“). In any case, I suspect Google, Apple, and cellular companies have already been through this kind of dance before in other countries. Still curious to see how it’s done.

I anticipate that it may just mean you can no longer sign into an Apple account for the first time on an iPad or iPhone without first enabling location services and allowing your device to detect via GPS and/or IP geo-locate if you are in Utah. And if you are, they will push a Utah-specific software update to you. I haven’t activated a new device for awhile, so maybe they already require location services before allowing you in. Not sure. I am not a fan of where this seems to lead, though.

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You say filters are terrible, but the reason you give for that is, essentially, that they don’t work perfectly. The basic conviction I’ve come to is that filters are inevitable. It’s one of those “not whether, but which” scenarios.

As you point out, all the money and engineering effort is going toward protecting Mickey Mouse, and Christian families are left trying to struggle with OpenDNS, Covenant Eyes, etc, etc. That’s a disgrace, but it’s not an argument against filters.

What I think everyone needs to keep in mind is that our information technology, from the printing press to iPhones and satellite internet access, completely flipped the flow of information. But even the printing press usually required me to pay for something or do something tangible in order to give the Rupert Murdoch’s of our world – or the pamphleteers of the Reformation – access to my home. Now, literally everyone with an internet connection has access to my home if I pay for internet service.

That’s a ridiculous scenario, and no Christian father should rest easy about it. Better not to have internet in your home at all than to be thoughtless about about it.

Not only are filters inevitable, but I’m beginning to think that there is no chance of a Christian culture without Christian filters. I believe that the pulpit leads the world, but I think it’s a joke if even the most “devout” Christians are dominated in their thoughts by what they see on TV our Youtube day in and day out, week in and week out. How are a couple lessons a week and some personal Bible reading suppose to compete with that? As I said to @jtbayly the other day, if our thoughts and feelings are dominated by commercials and TV shows and NY Times articles, then our religion is really just an interesting hobby we keep in the garage and work on from time to time.

We should aim to have our thoughts and feelings dominated by things that will bring good fruit. And the first step for that is to make actual decisions about what comes into our home - in other words, to have a filter.


This seems apropos:


This all reminds me of how George W. Bush answered a question during a town hall debate with Gore back in 2000. He was asked by a woman about what the government can do to get Hollywood, etc., to clean up their act so they stop subjecting our kids to stuff. Bush had some things to say about character education, and internet filters in libraries and other places where public money is spent. But what I appreciated was that he ultimately closed with a brief warning about censorship, and an admonishment to parents, that it’s ultimately their responsibility to control what comes into the house. All in all, I thought his answer was pretty well-balanced. Link below to the minute.

Responsibility for filtering what is being poured into our children should belong mostly to the family sphere of authority. The civil sphere should support parents in making sure they have the tools they need to exercise that authority, but the authority itself needs to remain with the family. At face value, maybe that’s what this Utah bill is accomplishing. However, history would seem to demonstrate, I think, that such laws or programs which begin in the name of supporting parents too often morph into usurping parents. Today, it’s about the enablement of filters. Tomorrow, it will be about controlling the filters, until the filter of parental authority itself is usurped.

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I think it is worth remembering that this is happening in Utah. Mormonism has no history of letting families and individuals make their own decisions. Though I don’t trust the liberal quest for censorship - I don’t like the Mormons making a similar play.


We would be far, far better off as a people if the Mormons had been running our entertainment industry for the last 70 years as compared to the people who have been running it.


Missed our chance. Could have had a Mormon entertainment complex instead of a Jewish entertainment complex.


Though we would have had less on-screen smut, the seedy underworld would still very much exist. And if the underworld is garbage…out of the heart come…