Does Sex & Porn Drive Legislation?

by | July 11, 2018

It’s now something of a truism, and one of the guiding philosophies of this site, that sex and porn play a leading role in driving technology forward. But do they also determine the path of legislation too? In an interesting article published this week, Darrell M. West – the author of ‘The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation‘ – argues that they do, and that laws that aim to curb the excesses or exploitation in the adult industry, often filter through into mainstream technology legislation.

The manner in which oversight unfolds in industries tied to sex is crucial because practices there often influence the rules and norms that develop in other sectors. For example, public concern about X-rated movies led the entertainment industry to develop a ratings system so viewers of mainstream movies could anticipate what types of scenes were part of those films. Those movie guidelines later extended to video games, songs, and music videos.

To combat sex trafficking and revenge porn, policymakers already have moved away from the libertarian impulses of the consumer market to legislation designed to hold platforms accountable for abusive behavior. As an illustration, President Donald Trump recently signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act that allows people to sue those who “knowingly” engage in trafficking.

By shifting in this direction, policymakers are paving the way for future restrictions on digital technology. In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica disclosures and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, pending federal, state, and local legislation would require disclosure of social media advertising that seeks to influence U.S. elections; strengthen privacy protections, promote cybersecurity, and limit artificial intelligence that discriminates based on biased information; beef up the legal liability for accidents involving autonomous vehicles; and make sure robots of all kinds are subject to human control.

Rather than being an exception, tougher laws related to sex are leading indicators of broader societal changes and legislative impulses. As happened with other technologies, early enthusiasts usually focus on the beneficial aspects of new developments, not their societal risks. It takes a while to see downsides of path-breaking technology, but policies and regulations often follow early waves of innovation. If people want to forecast future technology rules, they should pay attention to the sex industry because it often signals where policy trends are headed.

You can read the full article here

Whether or not you think this is a good thing, will depend on how adequately you think governments do the job of regulating porn and sexual exploitation. As the pace of sex technology innovation continues to increase, and governments struggle to keep up, the argument of the writer above could be considered somewhat disturbing.

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