The Mississippi House of Representatives is taking on the porn industry during the 2020 Session with a bill that would ban any internet content deemed pornography in the state.

So far, the bills have made it through the House Interstate Cooperation Committee (HB 1116 and HB 1120). They will still need to pass Judiciary B before any floor action is taken up by the full House.

Curious as to the way they plan to do that? Here’s a breakdown.

Authored by Rep. Tracy Arnold, HB 1116 would authorize the state to enter into an interstate compact with southern states for the purpose of constituting what they are calling “an area of moral decency” by banning internet and web passed porn.

Arnold said the motivation for this bill came when one of his own children received an inappropriate photo on a popular social media messaging app. He said that there is an urgency to protect our children and society by removing these unwanted images from internet platforms.

The legislation would go about enacting this ban by establishing a Commission of Southern States that would be open to other states as well.  The Commission would overseen by the governor of each state. It would be the responsibility of the Commission to push legislation that bans the dissemination of internet and web-based pornographic content that is regulated under the Federal Law on Obscenity.

The catch is that the law to restrict these materials cannot go into effect until at least six other states join the Commission. The bill specifies which states it hopes will join: Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

HB 1120 also mentions the same Commission of Southern States but addresses the advertising of obscene content on social media platforms.

Some have questioned whether or not a restriction like this is a direct violation of First Amendment Rights of the Constitution which states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

“The board would then go in and set guidelines on what constitutes as pornographic material,” said Arnold. “This isn’t an attempt to infringe on anyone’s rights; it’s to protect our children.”

Rep. Tracy Arnold

The North Mississippi lawmaker also expressed concerns that this industry is helping fuel the human trafficking problem that has not only swept through the nation but the State of Mississippi. Arnold said that often times people are viewing these violent pornographic images and then repeating them in real life, causing harm to victims of trafficking.

He said pornography opens a gateway for sex trafficking which is not only happening on the street corners anymore, but on the smartphone.

Arnold added that the end result would be for the state’s internet providers to create the filters that would restrict access for pornographic material on a web browser.

The committee in which the bills were passed isn’t known for pushing legislation through the chamber. In 2019, only two bills were passed from the committee and both eventually died in the Senate. Those bills were HB 1548 which addressed the time change and HCR 24 which would have done away with daylight savings.

HB 1116 referenced several U.S. Supreme Court cases focused on the impact of pornographic material. In Ashcroft V. American Civil Liberties Union, the court found that the Legislative branch “may undoubtably act to encourage the use of filters… It could also take steps to promote their development by industry, and their use by parents.”

The author of the legislation took that to mean that the Supreme Court was signaling to lawmakers to pass filter legislation that would require consumers to opt-in if accessing sensitive adult material.