Pornography filters: are we really helping UD?

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Although pornography has potentially destructive and harmful effects, it is the responsibility of every individual student, as free-thinking adults, to determine if they would like to engage in the visitation of these sites, not the responsibility of the school to enforce this upon its students.

Members of Student Government (SG) at the University of Dallas have recently proposed the institution of a Wi-Fi filter that would prohibit students from surfing pornographic internet sites via the school Wi-Fi.

Under the Internet Filtering Laws, 27 states implemented Wi-Fi blockers in publicly funded schools or libraries. Some of these laws pertain to colleges, but the vast majority apply to high schools and lower grades.

Pornographic content is illegal until the age of 18, and most of us attending this college meet that age requirement.

If it’s not illegal, why prohibit it?

In an article last week for The University News, student John Paul Hasson argued that the Wi-Fi filter will “help mitigate the destructive effects pornography has on our community and help us stay true to our Catholic identity.”

Hasson is correct in saying that the filter would aid us in staying true to our Catholic identity. However, pressing a Catholic identity onto every individual here restricts the freedom and the choices that we are given, both by law and as free-thinking adults.

As mostly independent college students, it’s not necessary to enforce these blockers upon us. We should be old enough and mature enough to make our own decisions.

Hasson also mentions the prospect of UD stepping out on the issue and claims that UD can “demonstrate a superior commitment to human dignity.”

This may be true; other educational institutions may positively view UD as a front-runner in content restriction.

However, many might see this and view UD as a restrictive or prudish institution, causing them to shy away from supporting our school.

Besides taking away a choice from students, Wi-Fi filters are obsolete. They are a net with gaps far too wide to catch everything that its supporters hope it will.

To put it simply, it’s impractical. There are numerous ways around a filter. Filters block keywords and won’t block content shared between people over instant messaging or other forms of communication. Aside from that, students could just disconnect from the Wi-Fi and use their cellular data.

It’s idealistic to believe that implementing a Wi-Fi filter will stop students from accessing pornographic content.

Not only is a filter impractical, it’s actually counterproductive. Many students use the internet to research issues concerning sexual health and wellbeing.

According to the Office of National Statistics in 2007, 43 percent of people over 16 use the internet to seek health-related information. It’s unclear whether the filter would be able to distinguish between sexual health sites and pornography. A filter could make it more difficult for people to access this critical information.

Filters have also been known to block websites deemed clean. According to research the University of California, Berkeley conducted in 2007, the Wi-Fi filters managed to block 91 percent of adult content, but also blocked 23 percent of clean content.

How can we be sure how restrictive the filter will be? Will it block out all sites with sexual content of some sort? If so, it risks blocking out educational sites about sexual health and possibly censor out T.V. shows with sexual content. Without a concrete statement about what the filter will prohibit, it’s too soon to assume that the blocker will actually be useful.

I recognize the virtue in providing a Wi-Fi filter to help protect students from the potentially dangerous effects of pornography. What’s concerning is the risk it poses by infringing upon a student’s ability to choose to do what is right and the potential it has to tarnish UD’s image by involving us in this controversial matter.

And what would all this risk be for? It would be for implementing a system that is not only extremely idealistic in its effects, but possibly counterproductive to its own mission.

It’s not an issue of whether you believe pornography is good or bad, it’s an issue of practicality. Restricting student choice could cause problems and side effects that could negatively affect UD.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is a really important article; I do think that it would be very good to have a limited blacklist (of 25-50 explicitly adult sites), as this wouldn’t be hyper-restrictive, would still respect student privacy, & would NOT COST any extra money for the school.

    So, I do think some action should be taken, but that a comprehensive, keyword-based system would ultimately not last long-term & would cost a great deal of money in the short term. Taking action against pornography is so important, but there’s a lot more to it than a top-down internet filter. Limited filtering is just one (albeit important) small part of a larger approach we must embrace to addressing this issue on our campus

  2. Mr. Edwards,
    I disagree with your equating objectively moral depravity of pornography with its current legal status in these United States. Evil has no rights, regardless of who legislates it. Calling a wrong a right doesn’t make it so. The murdering of humans within the womb of their mothers is also legal in this country. Should we simply allow a free thinking adult to murder a baby in the womb because of what America has deemed as legal?
    UD is a Catholic institution. However, I fear that it is becoming more and more less so. As a Catholic institution it should live up to the name rather than go the way of the world, like so many other institutions that were once faithful to the teachings of the Church. And if the numbers in attendance become increasingly smaller because of it being, as you say, “prudish” then what’s the problem?
    But I have found that virtue attracts and if UD or any other Catholic institution truly was faithful to Christ’s Bride, the Catholic Church, then the numbers would grow.
    While UD is as it, the institution should not allow the shows with sexual content, of which you speak of, nor any other objective evil.
    If UD or any other “Catholic” institution is not willing to be 100% faithful to the Church then they should no longer call themselves or be allowed to call themselves Catholic. Having the name Catholic is not a right but the most noble and beautiful responsibility.

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