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viewpoint

Porn filter considered harmful

| Thursday, September 24, 2020

Since White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week started again on Sunday, the petition to add a filter to Notre Dame’s WiFi that would block the top 25 most-used pornographic websites from being accessed is sure to resurface. Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) originally proposed this filter three years ago during WRAP Week, and has continued to advocate for it each year since.

Now I have witnessed firsthand the devastating, warping effect pornography addiction can have, as someone very close to me completely isolated himself in his addiction to it, and I ardently want to help advocate for reducing pornography addiction. However, I believe that the proposed filter would not only fail to diminish pornography use, but also that further advocacy for this specific proposal actually yields unnecessary opposition to SCOP and anti-pornography efforts in general on campus.

The proposed filter would create an easily circumvented barrier to accessing porn. As a computer science major, three very straightforward ways to circumvent the filter technology come to mind — using mobile data, visiting any of the thousands of other pornographic sites not among the top 25 (India restricted access to 857 sites in an attempt to censor porn) or connecting through a virtual private network (VPN). SCOP has claimed that even if the filter effectually does little, it would still “cause some students to contemplate, maybe for the first time, why the use of pornography is wrong.” I believe this argument is flawed: Pornography is addictive, and when it comes to addiction, nearly all other considerations become supplanted by the dominant, sometimes animal craving. SCOP’s claim suffers from the logical fallacy ignoratio elenchi — regardless of whether it is true (which is contested), the realization that pornography is wrong likely would not stop pornography users.

Even if the pornography filter would have a minimal effect on reducing use of pornography on campus, SCOP notes that, “A filter on ND’s internet, of course, will not eradicate pornography consumption on campus, given cellular access, but as a Catholic university, Notre Dame has a responsibility to encourage ways of living consonant with a Christian community and to foster a campus culture that encourages and supports moral virtue.” While this may be true, it once again fails to address the underlying argument. In this case, arguments are typically made against a filter due to the right of free speech. Given that a filter would mostly fail to effect anything of tangible consequence and that there is opposition to it (67% of men and 49% of women in college believe that viewing pornography is acceptable), it follows that SCOP is garnering hostility for an ineffective cause, which in turn reduces the organization’s ability to advocate for alternative solutions that would have a more meaningful impact here at Notre Dame.

Last October, WRAP Week again focused on implementing the filter, despite Fr. Jenkins explicitly rejecting the proposal earlier that year. In order to successfully advocate for anti-pornography measures, SCOP needs to change tactics. The WiFi filter has already been rejected and, unless it undergoes significant changes, will not be reconsidered by the University. We need to focus on finding new solutions, rather than trying to resurrect old horses without addressing the reason they died in the first place. And in the spirit of proposing new solutions — though I hardly maintain that these are the only possibilities, or are even particularly good ones — I believe we should start by advocating for two things. First, the University Counseling Center’s counselors should be trained in treatment of pornography addiction, and second, there should be discussion of this in the Moreau First Year Experience curriculum, with reference to the new counseling as a resource for help. Such a solution would help spread awareness of helpful resources and treat pornography addiction at its source, rather than ineffectually trying to stop its resulting behavior.

Colin McDonald

sophomore

Sep. 18

 

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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