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  • Writer's pictureRachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector

Kansas internet porn bill that could lead to broader censorship sent to governor’s desk

Critics of a bill geared toward preventing minors from accessing internet pornography say the legislation could lead to First Amendment violations. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)


By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA — Kansas’s Republican-dominated House has given final approval to a wide-ranging bill meant to stop minors from accessing porn, but a bipartisan group of critics warn it could censor works of art, classic books and LGBT content, as well as provide sensitive identification information to unregulated third parties. 


The measure passed 92-31, mainly along party lines, and now goes to the governor’s desk for final consideration. During a discussion of votes, Rep. Kenneth Collins, a Mulberry Republican who splintered from his party to vote against the measure, said he worried about the broader implications of the legislation. 


“I have a concern that while the bill does prohibit material that is harmful to minors, it leaves subjectivity as to what this bill bans,” Collins said. “I also have concerns that the information used to verify a person’s age could fall into the hands of entities who could use it for fraudulent purposes.”


Senate Bill 394 would require age verification for websites that contain 25% or more content that is “harmful to minors,” as defined by state statute. 


State statute delineates content that is harmful to minors as the description, exhibition, presentation, or representation of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse.  State statute also includes homosexuality  in its definition of “sexual conduct.” Several Democrats said this provision could lead to a ban on LGBTQ online materials for those under 18. 


Critics say the bill could also restrict: Blogs listing the most gay-friendly cities, a website dedicated to providing seminal books such as the “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger, or art sites with pictures of nude sculptures such as Michelangelo’s statue of the biblical hero David.


Senate lawmakers voted 40-0 to approve the bill in early February.  


This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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