Time For Action, Not More Research, On Porn Harm

The latest report from the Censor’s Office on pornography and teens makes disturbing reading but reveals nothing new in terms of what parents and families are already grappling with, and that it is time for action – including legislative support for families.

The politicians have been dragging the chain on the urgent social issue of pornography harm in society. A Select Committee has been considering a 22,334-written petition calling for an expert panel to be appointed to investigate the public health effects and societal harms of pornography, which was presented 20 months ago, but the committee is yet to release their report. However, we do welcome the decision by the Select Committee as a result of our Submissions to expand the porn harm investigation to include adult usage and all societal effects – something which the Censor’s report doesn’t cover.

We already know pornography is a problem. It’s time for urgent solutions. The annual cost of sexual violence ($1.2 billion) warrants the one-off investment in this Expert Panel Inquiry. At the same time as the important national conversation around consent and ‘rape culture’, there is increasing consumption and availability of online pornography and sexual violence. It’s time we connected the dots.

A nationwide poll in April 2017 found high levels of concern around the effects of online pornography and its link to sexual violence, and the easy access that young people have to offensive material. It also found significant support for action from government and internet providers in terms of filtering and Opt-Out provisions.

We are calling on immediate legislative support for families including:

  1. Online Child Safety Act: This bill would require ISP’s to provide or make available to all subscribers (parents) the technology which will allow the parents to monitor, control, supervise, block, and restrict their child’s access to the internet.
  2. Online Public Areas Safety Act: This bill would require retail shops, schools, businesses and public areas which provide free Wi-Fi to the general public (and especially children) to ensure that the appropriate filtering from pornography is in place (Starbucks has already started this).
  3. Raising Awareness on the Harms of Pornography Act: This bill would require education materials to be made available to parents, schools, and the general public – similar to alcohol and tobacco health warnings – regarding the public health risks and harms of pornography, its close link with sex trafficking, how parents can engage filters, and more.
  4. Government Accountability, Trust, & Etiquette (G.A.T.E) Act: This bill would require government agencies to adopt policies which would prohibit users of government-owned devices (like laptops and cellphones) from accessing sexually explicit, pornographic, and sexually harassing material. It would also ensure that appropriate filters are in place in all government agencies and services.