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Students look to implement Wi-Fi filter to limit pornography use

| Monday, October 30, 2017

To conclude White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) — a weeklong effort to bring attention to the consequences widespread pornography use can have on relationships and human sexuality — Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) invited students to offer their support for a filter that would block porn websites on Notre Dame Wi-Fi. Members set up tables outside North and South Dining Halls around lunchtime, seeking to engage their peers in conversation.

Chris Collins | The Observer
Members of Students for Child-Oriented Policy advocate for filters that would make accessing pornography more difficult.

Senior and SCOP member Carolyn Ebner said they hope to foster productive dialogue about the issue.

“I think it’s not something people are willing to talk about, which is the trouble, so I think our primary goal for this week is to draw attention to that and try to remove the silence and shame around it,” Ebner said.

The University forbids the use of its Wi-Fi network to view porn, but the policy is difficult to enforce while respecting the privacy of students. The filter, while it would not be the end-all solution to the issue of pornography on campus, would send an important message and force students to consider their actions more fully, Ebner said.

“Putting a filter in, first of all, is technologically extremely difficult to do, to actually filter out all the websites that would provide pornography for people,” Ebner said. “So, from our point of view, it’s more like a symbolic statement from the University. … It’s not going to stop the people who are really watching and using it, but for people trying to stop, it’s one more check on them to be like, ‘Okay, is this something I actually want to do?’” 

Senior and SCOP member Maria Kunath said while efforts to prevent others from viewing pornography may make it more difficult to access, the users must ultimately make the decision themselves.

We are not going to stop pornography use,” Kunath said. “If this petition passes, that’s not going to say that everyone who has ever looked at pornography is never going to do it again in their lives, but we’re hoping that people stop and think.”

Kunath said SCOP comes at the issue of pornography from a variety of angles, including Catholic teaching. The Church condemns porn as objectification of human beings made in God’s image and a violation of human dignity, she said.

“We’re hoping that a block, if it goes through, gives people pause and they say, ‘Okay, why is that?’” she said. “Why does the Church teach that about human sexuality? Is it good, is it bad, is this something I do, how does this affect my life? We’re hoping that the filter is a moment for a lot of people to pause and think and say, ‘What’s porn? Why am I using it? Why does Notre Dame think it’s bad?’” 

The ultimate solution, Ebner said, has to come from students’ challenging and supporting their peers — something she has already seen among her own friends.

“The biggest thing with WRAP Week is that we’re not expecting this to fix the problem, but we just want to get people talking about it,” Ebner said. “And I don’t think the University taking giant actions is going to be the most effective thing. I think the most effective thing is for groups of friends to start talking about it and holding each other accountable and give each other permission to be real and vulnerable with each other. I think the realest help is going to come from friendships.” 

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