Pope Francis Calls for Social Media Companies to Stop 'Extreme Pornography'

By Mei Manuel, October 09, 2017 21:10 PM


On Friday, Pope Francis has met up with the leaders of the largest internet companies worldwide for a conference in Rome and appealed to them that they should use their 'great profits' to help defend children from sexual exploitation and other online dangers.

In the conference, the Pope said that the Catholic Church needed to accept responsibility 'before God, victims and public opinions' in terms of the sexual scandals it has faced throughout the years and still share the lessons it had learned throughout these ordeals.

He also said before participants and representatives of Microsoft and Facebook that social media has more than set up filters and algorithms that can block off harmful content.

The Pope is against the spread of extreme pornography, 'sexting' and cyberbullying and see them as a 'true form of moral and physical attack.' He stressed that it is important that the Dark Web has to be stopped to protect these children and other victims from further abuse. 

The conference - entitled Child Dignity in the Digital World - was held two months after one monsignor was recalled from the Vatican's Washington embassy in August after the US State Department said the monsignor may have violated child pornography laws while in the US.

Sex scandals are not new for the Church to battle as several officials have been accused of sexual abuse and other related acts in the past couple of years. For example, one former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was ordered to go to trial for child sex offenses two years ago. However, the ambassador did not hear his verdict as he passed away while the trials were on going.

The conference was held in a pontifical university in Rome and was attended by several experts from medicine, academe, digital companies and law enforcement in order to discuss how to stop online bullying and abuse.

The Pope has high hopes for social media businesses to step up to campaign for the protection of 'impressionable minds' online.

He also said it would be a mistake to think that 'automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems'.

He also calls for businesses to review their current ethical guidelines and address concerns brought by the development of technology. He also said businesses should reject the idea of 'an ideological and mythical vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom'.

He said that while the digital revolution had enormous advantages, 'we rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp'.

The Pope was also immediate in saying that the Church has also failed in its responsibility in protecting children, citing that 'extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion'.

Because of 'skills gained in the process of conversion and purification,' he said the Church felt 'especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity'.

With the onslaught of scandals brought to the church for the past 20 years, the Church is currently working on establishing new protocols and practices to protect children. It has removed priests from their roster, worked with law enforcers and a 'zero tolerance' policy is applied to which clerics could not appeal a conviction.

However, victims' and support groups said that the actions of the Vatican is not enough and that they fail to go more than what they are doing now. According to these groups, the Vatican is still unable to make bishops accountable for the child abuse cases directed towards them.

In 2014, Pope Francis set up a commission that would assist him in rooting out sexual abuse cases. However, the commission is taking long to enact action and two key members have already resigned because of the lack of progress and cooperation from other Vatican officials.

The Rome conference's 13-point 'Declaration of Rome' calls all politicians, religious leaders, law enforcement organizations to help build a global awareness of the need to protect children from exploitation via the internet.


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