Don't underestimate online violence (3)

Devastating, long-term effects on children, and adults too

(ANSA) - Vatican City, October 6 - Pope Francis on Friday urged participants at a Gregorian University conference on Web kiddy porn not to underestimate the impact of online violence.
    Francis cited three potential mistaken responses to the spread of online porn. "The first is to underestimate the harm done to minors by these phenomena. The difficulty of countering them can lead us to be tempted to say: "Really, the situation is not so bad as all that…" But the progress of neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviours and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images. These problems will surely have a serious and life-long effect on today's children. "Here I would add an observation. We rightly insist on the gravity of these problems for minors. But we can also underestimate or overlook the extent that they are also problems for adults. Determining the age of minority and majority is important for legal systems, but it is insufficient for dealing with other issues. The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes. We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors".
    The second mistaken approach, Francis said, would be "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. "Certainly, such measures are necessary. Certainly, businesses that provide millions of people with social media and increasingly powerful, speedy and pervasive software should invest in this area a fair portion of their great profits. But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.
    "Here we find ourselves having to reckon with a third potentially mistaken approach, which consists in an ideological and mythical vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom.
    Quite rightly, your meeting includes representatives of lawmakers and law enforcement agencies whose task is to provide for and to protect the common good and the good of individual persons. "The net has opened a vast new forum for free expression and the exchange of ideas and information. This is certainly beneficial, but, as we have seen, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities, and, in the area with which we are concerned, for the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, for the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies. "This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom; it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.