Social media, premium and cable television and educational resources are all among the worst corporations to profit from and facilitate sexual exploitation, according to a new story.
The “Dirty Dozen List” is a project of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Communications Director Haley Halverson says the list is designed to highlight the worst offenders in several different venues.
“We’re targeting 12 mainstream corporations or organizations that we invite into our home, and that we think of as a reputable brand, that are facilitating pornography, prostitution or sex trafficking,” said Halverson.
The “Dirty Dozen List” has a page of information for each entity, so concerned citizens can reach out and urge the companies to change course.
“We don’t typically advocate for boycotts since that’s often not that effective. But we have created several different ways you can reach out and email the executives at these companies and it’s been tremendously expensive,” said Halverson, noting public pressure works quite well.
“We’ve changed policies at Google, the Department of Defense, at Walmart and Hilton Worldwide. The Hilton Worldwide hotel company used to sell on-demand pornography. For an example, when they contacted us to say that they would stop selling this contact, they told us they were receiving a thousand emails a week from our supporters,” said Halverson.
“Snapchat is frequently used for sexting. With its new addition of Snapcash, Snapchat is actually monetizing a lot of sexting, some child pornography and also prostitution,” said Halverson.
“That’s something that Snapchat could easily fix or at least clean up by allowing users to age-gate some sexually graphic content that in their ‘Discover Stories’ section. Snapchat has actually been sued by a 14-year-old who was exposed to some graphic material in their stories section, which users can’t opt out of. They have to see what these images are,” said Halverson.
YouTube has volumes of explicit material available and Halverson says that site and Twitter do a terrible job of enforcing their policies against such content.
“They’ll have a policy against something like pornography or prostitution but then they won’t do anything to enforce it. It’s time that we just stand up and say. ‘It’s your platform and if you’re going to have this policy, you need to do your best to actually create a safe and friendly user environment,” said Halverson.
Comcast makes the “Dirty Dozen List” while Verizon does not. Halverson says Verizon is taking steps to force users to access explicit programs rather than listing it where every family member can see it. She says Comcast is doing just the opposite.
“Not only do they sell this on-demand pornography, but they’ve actually written us a letter defending the pornography on there that has very violent, incest and racist themes, saying it’s all part of their consumer choice,” said Halverson.
HBO is also cited. Halverson says the premium cable outlet is guilty of “mainstreaming” pornography in popular television programs such as “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld.” Other violators in this category include Roku, Amazon, Backpage, and Cosmopolitan magazine.
The list also takes aim at educational institutions that insist on making explicit material available to users of any age, specifically the American Library Association, or ALA, and Ebsco. The American Library Association consistently says it refuses to allow internet filters because of its commitment to the first amendment.
Ebsco specifically caters to kids.
“They’re an online resource to public and private school and some libraries. They’re basically a big database that kids can go in and find some academic resources for their papers,” said Halverson.
However, she says they end up finding a lot more.
“You can go in there and search something as innocent as seventh grade biology and there will be links to hardcore pornography websites. There will be articles advising kids to try public, violent, and anal sex and on how to convince your girlfriend to do that,” said Halverson, who notes that elementary school kids use the resource as well.
Halverson also pushes back against the argument that the first amendment is an adequate defense for allowing kids to see such content.
“The first amendment does not protect obscenity, which is most hardcore pornography. That has been upheld by the Supreme Court several times. Secondly, the Supreme Court rules against the ALA in a case, saying that it is OK within the first amendment to filter out sexually graphic material in order to create a safe environment for children to learn,” said Halverson.
One asset in the fight against the proliferation of obscene materials is a Justice Department willing to enforce existing laws. Halverson says the DOJ almost made the list due its inaction.
“The last administration did not enforce this law. They’re on the watch list now because it’s still early. We’re waiting to see what the DOJ will do moving forward,” said Halverson.