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LISTEN: AL House Rep. Jack Williams breaks down his bill to add porn filters to your smartphone

Alabama House Representative for District 47 Jack Williams sat down with Yellowhammer Radio hosts Andrea Tice and Scott Chambers to discuss HB428, a bill he is sponsoring to add porn filters to smartphones. Rep. Williams also takes a few phone calls to clarify and here the public out on the issue.


Scott Chambers:

We are joined by a special guest in studio. Didn’t even get a chance to shake hands and say hello! How are yeah sir?

Andrea Tice:

I just waved. Just for the sake of time.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Good, good. Jack Williams.

Scott Chambers:

Jack Williams. Representative Jack Williams. Pleasure to meet you, sir. I appreciate you taking the time to come up to the studio to discuss HB428

Rep. Jack Williams:

Not a problem. Glad to be here.

Scott Chambers:

I was doing my normal prep for the show. Scrolling through YellowHammerNews.com and I found this article about this bill you’re introducing, and you’ve got 23 co sponsors on board right now.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Right.

Scott Chambers:

And it’s basically to put a filter on a phone to prevent people from viewing pornography, right?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well, it’s not designed to prevent people from viewing pornography. It’s designed to provide protection for children that existed in a magazine and video world that we haven’t exactly figured out how that fits into the digital world yet. So.

Scott Chambers:

Gotcha. Okay. So I feel like it’s coming from a great place.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Sure.

Scott Chambers:

I truly believe you’re coming from a great place with this. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about it right now.

Rep. Jack Williams:

*laughs*

Scott Chambers:

I feel like I’m kinda

Andrea Tice:

There’s probably more details on the plan that we need to hear about to understand it.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well, yes. If you look to the bill, I think you’re gonna see a lot of changes in the legislation. I think you’re gonna hear a longer discussion about that than we have for this session.

Scott Chambers:

Uh huh.

Rep. Jack Williams:

But we’ve started a conversation. You know, today, and I’ve had some folks say, “Well this is the parents’ decision. Parents are responsible for taking care of their children.” But, you know, the state has said a child can’t go into an adult book store.

Scott Chambers:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rep. Jack Williams:

And we didn’t say, “Oh, we’ll leave that up to the parents.”

Scott Chambers:

Right

Rep. Jack Williams:

And, so the state has engaged in activities that we believe protect children. The question is, “How do you do it in a digital age in a way that you don’t infringe on the rights of businesses, and you don’t make, don’t do, don’t make doing business over burdened or cumbersome. And how do you protect civil liberties.”

Scott Chambers:

Right

Rep. Jack Williams:

And what House Bill 428 does, is it begins to ask that question. I mean, I don’t think there’s uh, you lay this bill in front of 10 people and 9 and a half of them or 9 and 9/10 of them are going to say, “Yes, we need to protect children.”

Scott Chambers:

No question.

Rep. Jack Williams:

And I’m not sure how many are gonna say this piece of legislation is the way to do it.

Scott Chambers:

Right

Rep. Jack Williams:

But, we’re talking about it now. We weren’t a month ago.

Scott Chambers:

Absolutely. We need to protect children. I’m on board with that. I want to protect children by all means. There is no question. Our producer Dave Richardson weighed in on it when we brought this up on the program and he’s letting me, he has a question he wants to pose to you right now.

Dave Richardson:

How do you go about my liberties as a parent. I think you’re infringing on me being a parent and me taking care of my kids. The government is trying to come in and help me take care of my kids when I don’t need help.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well, the state’s already done that when they- If you tell your child “Hey, run down to the adult book store on the corner” When they get to the door, the manager, he’s responsible is gonna say “Oops. Sorry, you’re not allowed in here.”

Dave Richardson:

Well they also do that with clubs and bars, also. But you’re coming into my home with this aspect. There’s a difference there to me.

Rep. Jack Williams:

And you know, I think that’s why this discussion needs to be had. There may not be a thing we can do to expand on what we’re doing now to protect children. But, do you know, definitively, there’s nothing more we can do?

Scott Chambers:

See, now that’s a great question.

Dave Richardson:

There’s always something parents can do to protect their children. Being more involved. Having the dads more involved and not having single moms out there raising their kids by their self. I think that’s one aspect that we need to go to before we start going into the parent’s homes.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well, but, [crosstalk 00:03:54]

Dave Richardson:

[crosstalk 00:03:54] And I’m not being mean about this

Rep. Jack Williams:

No, no, no, no, no. And if this were limited to the home. Ya know, I grew up, I had, guess by today’s standards, even by the standards of that day, I was probably in a sheltered environment. My parents said you’re not gonna watch this, you’re not gonna listen to that, you’re not gonna hangout with these thugs, you’re not gonna go here, you’re not going there. And [crosstalk 00:04:16]

Scott Chambers:

[crosstalk 00:04:16] Same here. That’s the way I was raised.

Rep. Jack Williams:

And it was like all you did was nod and say okay. There were times where I ran outside of those boundaries and sometimes I got caught in the dire consequences and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes there were consequences not related to being caught.

Scott Chambers:

Sure

Rep. Jack Williams:

But when the first time I left my kids at home with the computer, or the first time I sent them out of the house with a smart phone, there were things they had access to that I couldn’t protect them from, and B, that I didn’t even know existed.

Scott Chambers:

So, my question would be, do you think that that is the government’s job? So when the children are not in your presence and the parents can’t look over them, does that then become the government’s job to look after them?

Rep. Jack Williams:

I don’t view this as the government’s job. I view this as the parent’s job.

Scott Chambers:

Sure

Rep. Jack Williams:

But I do think that government plays over, government can play a role in helping parents provide this. I serve with a guy who, and I’m not gonna call his name, but he has 2 teenagers. They’re probably a few years apart. His first child, he bought that child a smart phone, had parental controls put on it. Buys his second child a smart phone, wants the same parental controls on it, and now it’s 5 dollars a month. So now we’ve made it more difficult for a family to protect their child. And really what I would like to see, ideally mom and dad would be sitting at home talking about values to the kids and they wouldn’t go in that direction.

Scott Chambers:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Andrea Tice:

Right.

Rep. Jack Williams:

But, we’ve got how many folks raised in single parent homes today?

Scott Chambers:

It’s a lot, yeah.

Rep. Jack Williams:

I mean it’s…

Scott Chambers:

In my hand I’m holding an iPhone right now, and Jack –

Rep. Jack Williams:

I’m sorry, I have a Blackberry

Scott Chambers:

I miss my blackberry, I tell ya what

Dave Richardson:

Everybody does.

Scott Chambers:

It was hard to give that thing up, is it not? It’s hard to give those up, but no, in my hand I’m holding an iPhone. Andrea has one on the counter over there as well. This is a gateway to the world

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah.

Scott Chambers:

We don’t fully understand, even by today’s standards, what this thing can do. This has got more computing, almost as much computing power as this notebook in front of me. It’s insane the stuff you can access on these phones. There’s no question. I like the access and I like free access. To be able to have access to everything. I don’t condone looking at porn by any means at all, that’s, but if someone wants to do that in the privacy of their own home, if you’re a consenting adult, you should have the right to do that, I guess. I don’t think this HB 428 I don’t see that as you’re trying to cut down on pornography or anything like that. You’re doing this as a way to protect children. I feel like I have a better understanding now.

Andrea Tice:

One of the things I read here in the Yellow Hammer article, that it’s to block material that facilitates or promotes prostitution assination, human trafficking, or sexual cyber harassment. I don’t know if that’s pulled from the bill?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah, that’s pulled from the bill. This is a bill that was introduced in Florida and North Dakota, or not Florida, South Carolina.

Scott Chambers:

South Carolina, right.

Rep. Jack Williams:

And I don’t know that we’ve gotta do it exactly like –

Andrea Tice:

They did it?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Those guys did.

Andrea Tice:

Okay

Rep. Jack Williams:

And I’ve said to stakeholders, folks who are content providers, folks that I’ve, this is my 13th year in the legislature. I’ve worked with these folks for a number of years. Previously chaired the committee that this bill is going to so I’m dealing with people who I know and who know me. They understand my concern and I think they’re willing to take a look at this and say okay. What can we do? If no one asks the question what can we do, then it never gets answered.

Scott Chambers:

Right.

Rep. Jack Williams:

And it’s so easy in a world where you get pushback on anything to just say oh it’s not worth the hassle. And I figure let’s just throw it out there and see what kinda response we get from the stakeholders about how they can solve the problem.

Scott Chambers:

Our guest is representative Jack Williams Republican from Vestavia Hills and I appreciate you coming up to the studio. Being on the program here in studio with us. We’ve got some phone calls. Would you mind taking some phone calls?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Absolutely

Scott Chambers:

I can’t guarantee what they’re gonna say…

Andrea Tice:

Hmm, no.

Scott Chambers:

Be nice to Jack Williams. He’s a really cool guy there’s no question. I think this does come from a good place. I really do. Now there’s some other issues I want to get into in just a moment, about dealing with the cell phone companies like apple and Samsung and things like that how would we go about making this actually work if it were to pass. We’ll get into that in a moment, let’s jump to some phone calls. We’ll go to Jan on line 2. Jan welcome to YelloW Hammer Radio.

Caller (Jan):

Hey, thanks. And I appreciate Mr. Williams trying to protect my child, but why aren’t’ they having round table discussions going from church to church, area to area, why are they burying their head in the sand when they’re sending children out that are being born without fathers that cause more harm than pornography. They’ll wind up in jail, they’ll wind up quitting school, you know the stats, I don’t have to tell you that. How come we are not discussing, how come we keep our head buried in the sand over that issue?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well,

Scott Chambers:

Thanks for your call, Jan, appreciate it.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Jan, I certainly don’t disagree with your point. I actually hosted a conference in my church a couple of months ago called Coming back stronger. We dealt with where men go beyond failure. A lot of times guys mess up. We’re broken. We’re all broken.

Scott Chambers:

Absolutely

Rep. Jack Williams:

And we mess up and it’s hard to re-engage. And so, from the faith perspective, I’ve been involved in trying to help facilitate conversations that help men re-engage in life after failure.

Scott Chambers:

I think that’s a great question Jan asked. But, at the same time, it’s a completely separate subject. That’s a whole different animal that is going to be hard to tame. Because as much as Christians we want to do that, we are not perfect people.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah.

Scott Chambers:

That’s a hard one to tame. This is something that we can look at a little closer.

Andrea Tice:

And we can’t have government becoming the church arm of what needs to be done in this culture.

Scott Chambers:

That’s true. We can’t. That’s very well said. That’s very well said. Representative Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, our guest right now. Can you hang with us for a couple more minutes?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Sure.

Scott Chambers:

Perfect.

Andrea Tice:

Are we going to the phones there, Scott?

Scott Chambers:

We are. We’re gonna go to the phone lines. First, Let’s go over some tweets really fast and I’m just gonna read these hot, so I haven’t proofread them.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Sure.

Scott Chambers:

Nonni tweets in, “Why not go after pornographers instead?” That’s an interesting question. We’ll have you address that in a moment. And then Nonni also says, let’s see…

Andrea Tice:

He says “Have rep make carrier give service for free instead of charging $5.”

Scott Chambers:

See, I agree with that. If Alabama could go after the carriers and make them have the filters for free for parents, that would be great, too.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah. I think that first off, you can’t go after the pornographers.

Scott Chambers:

It’s almost impossible.

Rep. Jack Williams:

You’ve got first amendment issues that prevent you from going after them. But, I do think that these services oughta be, these filters and things, parents shouldn’t have to pay extra for it. It puts an additional burden on low income families.

Scott Chambers:

I agree with that 100%

Andrea Tice:

You just simply want to do the right thing and shouldn’t have to pay to be safe.

Scott Chambers:

I am starting to have a better understanding of this now, personally. I don’t like the, and I’ve told Jack this off the air, I don’t like the fact that the government wants to say “No, you can’t view porn.” Because originally, that’s how I looked at it. Now I do have a better understanding of this. This is why conversations are so important.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah

Scott Chambers:

This is why conversations are important. You learn things. Because, one, I’m like I know you, I’ve never met you, but this is a good guy. He’s a good guy. He’s not going after people and being like “Oh, we gotta create a list and make fun of you”. That’s not what this was about. In conversations, you get a lot out of them. Let’s have one now with Jason. You’re on Yellow Hammer Radio.

Caller (Jason):

In all fairness, it’s always to protect the children. There are already programs online from ISP providers, or just online in general, that you can download for free to protect the children.

Andrea Tice:

You can download those to –

Caller (Jason):

Why not raise awareness there?

Andrea Tice:

Are you talking about for the computer, but also for the phone?

Scott Chambers:

Because we’re talking about cell phones. This deals with phones.

Caller (Jason):

Yes. For both.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Well, Jason, you’ve kinda proven, we’re doing what you suggested. Your call does raise awareness to those. I think it’s important. It’s a good idea to have these conversations and say “What are we doing? Can we do more? Are we doing about right? Are there opportunities out there for people, for parents that they have no knowledge of right now?” So, you know, what this will look like as a finished product, I don’t know. It will look a lot different than it is today and I’m fine with that. You know, this conversation is a healthy conversation and it addresses issues that parents would probably feel a little threatened by at times.

Scott Chambers:

Absolutely. Jason, I appreciate your phone call. Let’s move on to Susan on line 4. Susan, welcome to Yellow Hammer Radio.

Caller (Susan):

Hi, you guys. How are you doing?

Scott Chambers:

Living the dream, Susan.

Andrea Tice:

Doing great.

Caller (Susan):

I guess my concern is about how you guys want to compel people to do this right at the point of purchase. I mean, couldn’t’ there be an option that you would be able to install this filter, as opposed to having it already installed? Because I see, definitely from Apple, a lot of pushback on this.

Scott Chambers:

Yeah.

Caller (Susan):

Because

Rep. Jack Williams:

I think that would be the question do you, is it an opt in or an opt out program. I think there are a lot of advantages to an opt out program. An opt in program, I’m not gonna, I wouldn’t throw myself into the street to block and opt in program.

Scott Chambers:

Right. Great question, Susan. Appreciate your phone call. Thanks for calling in.

Andrea Tice:

With an opt in program, you have to make sure that everybody is aware of it.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah.

Scott Chambers:

Yeah

Andrea Tice:

In order for them to opt in.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Right.

Andrea Tice:

And you can’t guarantee that. But, it seems like the design, possibly, or at least the proposal from that bill is get it out there from the start, and then people have to figure it out.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah, there’s a lot of different ways this could be done in/out. But we’re having a conversation.

Scott Chambers:

We are.

Andrea Tice:

Now you mentioned- I read it at least on Yellow Hammer News that you have 23 co-sponsors for the bill. That’s a significant number of people that are at least willing to, they’re committing to at least start the conversation.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Start a conversation about what do we do that makes sure as a state, we are doing what is appropriate for the protection of children. I think there’s a lot of room for conversation about what is appropriate, what’s not, and again, we’re not gonna pass something that doesn’t protect civil liberties and doesn’t protect business.

Andrea Tice:

Yeah, one thing I will say. Ya know, I appreciate your effort here simply because on the other end of it, the people that are out there exploiting, they’re very aggressive and they’re always looking for ways to intrude and invade a space in children’s minds. We need people who are on the other end being aggressive and saying, “let’s find every possible way we can to block this from happening.”

Scott Chambers:

Looking over some of the co-sponsors here, I see that my old friend Becky Nordgrun is on there?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah, there were a bunch of sponsors on this.

Scott Chambers:

I live up in the Gatson area. I live in the South Side up there.

Rep. Jack Williams:

I went to school on South Side my 10th grade year.

Scott Chambers:

Did you really?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yes.

Scott Chambers:

Go panthers! That’s where I live.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Is Panther Pit still there?

Scott Chambers:

That’s where my parents met, actually. No, it’s been torn down. That’s a long story. I’ll share that with you off the air. But no, my parents met there at the Panther Pit. But no I live in South Side and I saw Becky’s name. She’s from up our way. So there’s a lot of good names here on the list that are co-sponsors of this. We’ve got some more calls.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Sure.

Scott Chambers:

Let’s jump to another call here in just a moment. Waiting on the producer to pop the name in. Let’s go to Dwight on line 1. Welcome to Yellow Hammer Radio.

Caller (Dwight):

Yeah, this just appears to be a way for the state to get more money out of people’s pockets. With the [inaudible 00:17:12] the cell phones that people have and they always get a new one, that’s [inaudible 00:17:18][crosstalk 00:17:18]

Rep. Jack Williams:

We’re gonna take the 20 dollar fee out.

Scott Chambers:

So you would take the fee out?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah.

Scott Chambers:

So no fee at all?

Rep. Jack Williams:

Right.

Scott Chambers:

Wouldn’t keeping the fee in help with some of the budget problems we have in the state? Think about it, everyone has a cell phone.

Rep. Jack Williams:

It would, but Dwight’s call is what folks,

Scott Chambers:

Is gonna be the blow back.

Andrea Tice:

Yeah.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Is part of the reason folks will say this is subjectional. Objectionable. It’s just not worth it.

Scott Chambers:

Great call, Dwight. Appreciate it.

Andrea Tice:

Once you bring the fee in, then people start casting doubt on your motive.

Scott Chambers:

Right, okay

Rep. Jack Williams:

Right.

Andrea Tice:

Then that becomes a problem.

Scott Chambers:

One final question I have. Because we’re coming up on a hard break here. If we get rid of the 20 dollar fee-

For those of you just joining us, our guest is representative Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills. We’re talking about HB 428, which would require an installation of cell phone porn filters.

So now, here’s the big question. A written letter to the state. You would actually have to write.

Rep. Jack Williams:

No. We’re gonna get rid of that.

Scott Chambers:

So you guys are gonna get rid of that.

Rep. Jack Williams:

We’re gonna get rid of that.

Scott Chambers:

Because that scares me.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Sure, sure.

Scott Chambers:

I’m not saying that I’m gonna be one to sign up for it, but that would mean a list would be there, Jack.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Yeah. I don’t care who’s looking at porn. That’s not my business.

Scott Chambers:

Sure.

Rep. Jack Williams:

The state doesn’t need to know that. But, it would, the reason I think that was in from other states was so you know the person having it removed is 18. You can do that when you order the computer, when you buy your phone, just do it at the point of sale, so.

Scott Chambers:

Alright.

Andrea Tice:

Okay.

Scott Chambers:

So we know more now. I’ve got a better understanding of it. I’m all for supporting children. I don’t like, I’m glad to know you would take out the list so, nowadays with hacking, can you imagine if that list were to get out? That would not be good. Because then we would be going through it as news reporters, “hey! Guess who’s on that list!”

Andrea Tice:

Right. Yeah.

Scott Chambers:

That would be scary. So getting rid of the list.

Rep. Jack Williams:

I’m sure it would all be for research.

Scott Chambers:

Of course, it would be for research. See, I would have to do it for research purposes as a news anchor. I would have to put my name on that list. Just in case I ever needed to view that stuff. No I’m kidding.

Jack Williams. Representative Jack Williams. I appreciate you taking the time to come up here to the studio and discuss this with us on Yellow Hammer Radio.

Rep. Jack Williams:

Right. Thanks a bunch, guys. Appreciate the opportunity.

Andrea Tice:

Thank you, so much, for coming by.

Scott Chambers:

Representative Jack Williams, our guest, of Vestavia Hills, on Yellow Hammer Radio.