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Utah seeks to block pornographic content on smartphones

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Gov. Spencer Cox greeted supporters arriving at an election night event in Mount Pleasant, Utah, last week. Credit…Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune, via Associated Press

The governor of Utah on Wednesday announced a new law requiring an anti-pornography filter on smartphones and tablets sold in the conservative Mormon-majority US state.

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The law, which Republican Spencer Cox said he had signed the night before, would penalize manufacturers failing to include the filter between $10 and $500 per violation.

Backed by conservative lawmakers in the western state — where members of the Mormon Church make up two-thirds of the population — the measure would only take effect in the unlikely event that five other states pass similar laws.

In practice, the reform could look like the reverse of parental controls on existing devices sold by tech companies such as Apple and Google, in which the filters are by default turned off.

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People who want to be able to access content seen as potentially harmful would have to ask for a code to unblock the automatic filter.

Opponents such as the Utah branch of the American Civil Liberties Union say the constraints would encroach on the right to unrestricted internet access.

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