Limiting access to pornography

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 13th of December, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, curbing access to pornography.

Back in the 1980s, it was one of key issues of the old Moral Majority. Anti-porn efforts failed in a legislative sense, so the issue faded from political view.

REICHARD: But with the explosion of the internet and smartphones that provide instant access to anything, pornography is now more pervasive than ever. And the church is not immune.

Recent Barna research found 68 percent of church-going men view porn on a regular basis. While numbers are lower for women, they are no less alarming.

EICHER: Many now recognize this as a public health crisis affecting marriages, families and the fabric of society. And the alarm isn’t limited to Christians.

That’s why major companies are now taking steps to limit access to explicit content. Just since the beginning of this month, Starbucks, Tumblr, and Comcast all made major announcements.

Joining me now to talk about this is Dawn Hawkins. She is the executive director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and she joins me from her office in Washington. Dawn, thanks for making time, good morning to you.

HAWKINS: Good morning, thank you.

EICHER: Dawn, I’d like to begin with the specifics of these three companies I’ve just named. What are they going to do, and why is it significant? And begin with Starbucks.

HAWKINS: Yes. Starbucks stated that they’ll filter, they’re going to begin filtering pornography from all of their wifi and several hotel chains where they have stores. And this is significant. McDonald’s already did this about two years ago. We’ve been asking Starbucks to do just that. Many individuals are going there and using their wifi. Kids are in there, and it’s just not a place where pornography should be allowed to be accessed.

EICHER: Alright and then Tumblr and Comcast, as well.

HAWKINS: Yes. Tumblr. This is a great win because Tumblr has been known as kind of the go-to social media app for accessing pornography and yet after being kicked out of the app store on Apple for having child pornography on its system, Tumblr has now announced that they’ll remove all pornographic content from their site.

I actually just reviewed this study where it said that 23 percent of those who have seen pornography on Tumblr are under the age of 18. Twenty-eight percent have been unintentionally exposed to pornography because it’s so prevalent on the platform. So this is a great win, especially because of the sheer number of young people who are using that system.

EICHER: And, finally, Comcast.

HAWKINS: The list is so long it’s hard to go through it all here, but they include improved parental controls, restricting access to pornography to prevent unwanted exposure, and an increased investment in digital safety. They’ve created a completely safe kid zone where parents have, there’s absolutely no pornography or hyper-sexualized content in it.

And parents even have the ability to take other pieces of content out of the kid phone. Their mobile platform that Comcast has for cable subscribers now is completely free of pornography. And this is very welcome news especially after our organization and many of the public have been asking them for years to make these changes.

EICHER: Right, and Comcast worked with your organization to make the changes that it made. Talk a little about how that came about.

HAWKINS: Sure. Well, to be honest, it started with a not-so-nice campaign where we were asking parents and concerned citizens to join with us in shaming Comcast for profiting from such explicit, hardcore material. And as a result of the thousands of people who sent petitions to executives and added their voice on social media like Twitter, Comcast opened a dialogue with us and we’ve had a number of emails, calls, letters back and forth, advising on ways that we think they should improve. They haven’t done everything that we want but Comcast has made substantial changes.

And they’ve also even said to us that they hope that they will be a leader and an example to all in the telecommunication space. And they’re willing to go with us to other companies like Verizon and DirecTV to ask for these same, if not better, changes. So, incredible progress there.

And I think we should be encouraged.

EICHER: We hear about decay all throughout the culture, and yet we have these major companies making pro-family decisions. What do you suppose is fueling the trend?

HAWKINS: I think it’s really this awareness of the public health impacts of pornography and its connections to these other societal ills like sex trafficking, violence against women, the impact of early exposure on the development of kids. For example, Amazon—Amazon, even—made some changes lately. They stopped selling childlike sex dolls. I mean, the fact they were selling it in the first place is astounding and ridiculous. They’ve taken down some of the hardcore pornography videos that they were selling.

But I think what’s changed is this collective awareness in the public about the harms pornography is yielding in our society on the individual and on the family. And we’re holding these companies accountable.

It’s not just kind of the pro-family, more conservative voices that are just speaking up about these issues now. It’s also radical feminists joining more secular leaders and groups are raising their voice also. And I think because we’re willing to join together in raising awareness of these harms, we’re seeing this global trend to oppose sexual exploitation.

EICHER: Dawn, before I let you go, what is next in the fight against pornography?

HAWKINS: You know, we have an annual list: The Dirty Dozen List and we invite you all to join with us. It will be announced in February and go to Tumblr was part of it. Amazon was part of it. Comcast was, and that’s been a major way we’ve gotten a lot of these changes. And so I encourage others to join with us with the launch of the 2019 Dirty Dozen List and help us hold these companies accountable.

EICHER: Dawn Hawkins is executive director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Dawn, thank you for your work and thanks for your time today.

HAWKINS: Thank you.

(Photo/Associated Press, Ted S. Warren) A customer works on a laptop at a Starbucks location near the University of Washington in Seattle. 

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