Concern is growing about Georgia House Bill 509.  This bill would require blocking technology in all Internet-connected devices sold in Georgia.  The title of the bill is the "Human Trafficking Prevention Act" but the requirements and remedies seem to have little to do with human trafficking. Key provisions and problems:

  • Requires blocking technology in all web-enabled devices to block adult content and illegal content. This constitutes an unfunded or under-funded mandate.
  • Circumvention information is illegal and is to be blocked. May cause problems for security research.
  • An unblocking fee of $20 is required. This is to be collected to go to a state fund.
  • All companies must maintain a call center to adjust the blocking list based on reports. This could be an impossible burden for startups and small technology suppliers. (It has been suggested that businesses could recover new costs by adding amounts to the $20 fee, but this may be inadequate depending on the size of the business and the business model.)
  • The state Attorney General will sue to suspend sales of non-compliant devices in the state.
  • The bill is named the "Human Trafficking Prevention Act" as if blocking will somehow prevent human trafficking. (Funds collected don't even go to this purpose.)
  • No privacy protections are offered for those who willingly pay the fee. This list of those willing to pay the fee could become a new Scarlett Letter with or without a data breach.
  • These issues have been litigated already during the Communications Decency Act (CDA) Supreme Court Case. Regardless of the outcome of any future court cases, businesses could be exposed to needless expense and logistics headaches while this measure, if ratified, works its way through the courts.

The "Human Trafficking Prevention Act" is part of a nationwide effort to enact legislation in all 50 states rather than coordinate a unified effort in federal law. The law treats ALL adult content as a demerit good that should be taxed, with no privacy protection for those willing to pay the fee. The blocking technology, once implemented, could quickly and easily be repurposed to block First-Amendment protected speech including political speech.

In Georgia, House Bill 509 was accompanied by non-binding House Resolution 447, which appears to be an anti-adult content manifesto and belies the true motivations of the authors of the bill.

This bill cannot be passed before the 2018 session because it did not make it by Crossover Day. It requires an accompanying state constitutional amendment to be voted on in a referendum in order to be in effect. The proposed start date in the text of the bill is January 1, 2019.

Sponsors of the bill include:

Electronic Frontiers Georgia will be watching this bill and continuing to express concern as developments warrant. Check openstates.org to determine who your STATE representative is if you wish to express concern to your elected representative.