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credit: newyorkcriminal attorney

credit: newyorkcriminal attorney

And this would hamper human trafficking, how, exactly? WMBF News reports:

People buying computers in South Carolina would be limited in their access to porn online under newly proposed legislation.

A bill pre-filed this month by state Rep. Bill Chumley would require sellers to install digital blocking capabilities on computers and other devices that access the internet to prevent the viewing of obscene content.

The proposal also would prohibit access to any online hub that facilities prostitution and would require manufacturers or sellers to block any websites that facilitate trafficking.

Rep. Bill Chumley

Rep. Bill Chumley

Rep. Chumley is a Republican, which the AP, for some reason, neglected to mention. It is thoughtless measures like this that hurt the Conservative brand. What’s that you say? Chumley is obviously concerned only for “the children?” Not so much:

Both sellers and buyers could get around the limitation, for a fee. The bill would fine manufacturers that sell a device without the blocking system, but they could opt out by paying $20 per device sold. Buyers could also verify their age and pay $20 to remove the filter.

Money collected would go toward the Attorney General’s Office’s human trafficking task force. Last year, pushed by officials including Attorney General Alan Wilson, lawmakers approved a bill to give the State Grand Jury authority to investigate human trafficking.

So it’s actually a “non-tax” tax to fund a political boondoggle. There are some in the SC legislature pushing the idea that human trafficking is a serious problem in the state, but a quick Google search indicates it may, instead, a wealth redistribution scheme, as this WISTV report suggests: 

Dramatic kidnappings conducted by masked men make for good television, but those images have tainted our view and made us blind to an epidemic growing in South Carolina soil [skip].

But even though investigators see the cases and they know it exists, there aren’t currently any statistics to quantify trafficking in South Carolina. That creates several challenges for departments like Jackson’s, including funding.

‘We have a hard time justifying a grant or that we need people to work on this. Without statistics, how do you really say there’s a problem?’ Richland County Sheriff Captain Heidi Jackson said.’

‘Chumley told the paper his proposal would block users from accessing websites that facilitate human trafficking and is intended to protect children from exposure to sexually explicit materials.

‘If we could have manufacturers install filters that would be shipped to South Carolina, then anything that children have access on for pornography would be blocked,’ the Spartanburg Republican told the paper. ‘We felt like that would be another way to fight human trafficking.

And what, exactly, is “human trafficking?” Various news reports suggest a very broad and nebulous definition that appears to primarily encompass kidnapping women and forcing them into prostitution. Kidnapping itself is a serious felony in every state, and all related crimes are equally serious. Transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes is a federal felony. It would seem that any action contemplated under proposed “human trafficking” laws is already illegal, and in some cases, represents a higher category of punishment in existing law.

In addition, the pornography link to human trafficking Chumley supposedly seeks to close does not seem to be reflected–directly or otherwise–in the anecdotes used to illustrate what is being represented as a serious and growing problem.

Am I against the victims of human trafficking? For child access to porn? Hardly. I am against cynical manipulation of the public, and against unnecessary laws.

credit: 99%invisible

credit: 99%invisible

Those of us of a certain age recall the milk carton campaign of the early 1980’s. Started by the disappearance of 6-year old Etan Patz at the end of 1979, photos of “missing” children on milk cartons accompanied a national panic. While a large number of children are reported “missing” each year, it was eventually discovered that only a very few are genuinely kidnapped and/or never found, and photos of missing children soon disappeared from the nation’s milk cartons. By the 1990s, the program had all but vanished, though to this date, it’s proponents suggest it was valuable because it “raised awareness.”

Absent the hard evidence WISTV seeks, the human trafficking furor in South Carolina may be yet another example of raising awareness, and misspending taxpayer cash. The idea Chumley’s bill will have any real effect on the ability of children–many of whom now carry smart phones, iPads, etc.–to access Internet porn is nonsensical.

It is very easy to demagogue such issues. It is hard, particularly so for politicians, to work with the police to actually catch and prosecute such criminals. That takes a sharp focus over time, and substantial sums of money. If the problem politicians decry really doesn’t exist, putting a spotlight on it for too long, and in the wrong ways, isn’t conducive to long term political careers.

It should always be remembered that when a politician, any politician, says he wants something “for the children,” it’s smart to immediately check one’s billfold or purse, because government’s hand is likely already in it. “For the children” is, all too often, an excuse for ideas and programs that can’t be sold on their own merits.

For the time being, absent convincing evidence of enormous numbers of cases of actual human trafficking that do not fall under existing criminal law, residents of South Carolina would be wise to do a billfold or purse check. Rep. Chumley’s hand just might be there.

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