Whether you’re looking for pornography or not, it seems to be a law of the universe that stumbling across porn on the internet is inevitable. This ease of accessibility is controversial, especially when children are involved.
Recently, Pope Francis weighed in on the debate over regulations, calling tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook to be held accountable for their protection (or lack thereof) of children from pornography.
Pope Francis argued that companies should prioritize keeping children safe, rather than increasing profits. He referenced studies that show children’s first exposure to porn happens when they are 11, as well as studies that reveal potential risks to children’s emotional and sexual growth when exposed to pornography.
It’s not just children viewing pornography that’s worrying, however. With the explosion of digital messaging, the FBI reports an influx of sexual predators online. Minors are getting groomed and exploited by predators and the availability of child porn on the internet is increasing. Not to mention, with the push for privacy on the internet – such as Facebook’s encrypted messages – it can be difficult to track down sexual predators.
While tech companies might not intend to be involved in child porn, their technology is being used for these purposes anyway. As such, Pope Francis insists these companies should be held accountable. Some suggestions presented at the “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” conference included strengthening artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to safeguard against child pornography and implementing age verification for certain platforms.
Some believe this push for child protection might stem from the Catholic Church’s own troubled history with sexual abuse: over the decades, there have been thousands of cases of child molestation. Pope Francis promised “decisive action,” when he took power in 2013. According to the BBC, this has included releasing a letter condemning clerical sexual abuse and creating a panel to deal with offenses within the church.
Pope Francis’ recent remarks were not the first time he’s suggested technology creators have some hand in protecting children. Rather than simply accuse companies of taking advantage of children, however, Pope Francis extended a plea: “I make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future.”