Tech firms should help curb online porn

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | March 12, 2015

Google takes step; why not Apple?

The World Wide Web was on fire last Monday, as Apple held its annual live event to introduce its newest products, including the long-awaited Apple Watch.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage to announce the latest high-tech gear from the Cupertino, Calif., based company. In addition to the new Apple Watch, with a price tag beginning at a whopping $350, Cook unveiled a new MacBook laptop and the Apple TV with a reduced price and added features.

Technology continues to pique our interest and drain our pocketbooks. When it is misused it can drain our moral batteries.

Online sexual exploitation is perhaps the greatest downfall resulting from our technology-driven society. The Internet has made child sexual abuse, sex slavery and sexual violence a profit-driven industry that harms the most vulnerable people in society. Pornography is easily accessible to anyone with a web-enabled device, including children.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, formerly Morality in Media, monitors the cyberworld and through its “Dirty Dozen List” (www.dirtydozenlist.com) keeps a tab on the Internet’s leading contributors of sexual exploitation. It also lists groups that take steps to lessen the problem.

On Feb. 23, the center on exploitation announced that Google, the online search engine with a variety of Internet-related services and products, changed some of its policies to curb exploitation. Among the changes:

  • Launching a YouTube Kids App which would limit content and give parents more control over what their kids can see on YouTube.
  • Prohibiting publicly shared images and video that are sexually explicit or depict graphic nudity on its Blogger platform. People and companies use Blogger to create blogging websites. This policy was to take effect March 23.

In addition to these latest policies, Google last year prevented its AdWords program (an online advertising service) from accepting ads that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts or that link to websites with this material. It also blocked sexually explicit apps in its GooglePlay app store.

All of these changes offer hope for a safer web experience, especially because they come from one of the world’s largest technology forces.

However, Google succumbed to pressure after its Feb. 23 announcement. On March 4, the center on exploitation reported that Google backtracked on its promise to ban sexually explicit or graphic images and video from Blogger.

Here is what Google told blog owners:

“If you have pornographic or sexually explicit content on your blog, you must turn on the adult content setting so a warning will show.” What happens if a sexually explicit blog does not turn on the adult content setting? Google will turn it on. What if it happens repeatedly? Google “may” remove the blog. (Read the updated policy here.)

Google acquiesced to pressure from porn promoters, allowing them to conduct business as usual. Maybe it’s time for companies that produce hardware — laptops, smartphones and tablets — to access the Internet to put some of their profits into ending online sexual exploitation.

What if Apple took the lead in setting a new standard for families who do not want to be exposed to immoral or indecent material on their devices? If Apple can invent a smartphone and a smart watch, why not enable their devices to purge porn?

Sexually explicit material produced for the Internet can create modern-day sex slaves out of those depicted in the images and videos. It can also create slaves out of people who view it. Laws on freedom of expression make it hard to define and police lewd material. That is why more control, originating with hardware, could help reduce exposure to sexually exploitative material. Come on, Tim Cook, throw an Apple at smut.

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