Child on the Computer

A new bill in Canada, if passed, would require pornography websites to prohibit minors from accessing sexually explicit material.

The Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act (Bill S-203), sponsored by Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, would empower the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to require pornographic websites to ban access to anyone under the age of 18. The proposal declares that “anyone making sexually explicit material available on the internet for commercial purposes has a responsibility to ensure that it is not accessed by young persons.”

The bill would require porn sites to implement age-verification systems to effectively ascertain the age of users without breaching their privacy rights—a move that one Pornhub manager said would “devastate” the site’s traffic.

If a corporation were to violate the Act, a $250,000 fine could be levied against the company for a first offense. Subsequent offenses would most likely lead to increased fines of up to $500,000 for each offense. And any director, officer or agent of a corporation who directed or authorized any violation of the law could be subject to prosecution.

MindGeek, the Montreal-based parent company of Pornhub, YouPorn and many other sites, averages 125 million visitors a day—many of them minors. In fact, Covenant Eyes, an internet monitoring software company, estimates that 57% of teens search out porn at least monthly, with most males first being exposed to pornography by the age of 12.

“Online pornography has become the primary sex educator of young people today,” said Julia Beazley, director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. “A growing body of research tells us that widespread access to and use of online pornography contribute to a broad range of harms, particularly to minors. Its impact on child psychosocial and sexual development and the way it is shaping sexual attitudes, behaviors and preferences, as well as the increase in compulsive behavior and addiction related to viewing online pornography, constitute a public health crisis.”

In a letter of support for Bill S-203, The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) warned that the global pandemic has made children even more vulnerable to online pornography, as well as human trafficking.

“We are keenly aware Canadian children are accessing the internet on smartphones, tablets and computers as a part of their daily lives,” said Patricia Leson, president of NCWC. “The reality of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of time children and youth spend online as the internet and media platforms are serving not only as an educational resource but also as entertainment …”

That is why Laila Mickelwait founded Traffickinghub, a campaign which partners with anti-trafficking organization Exodus Cry to expose the crimes committed by the online pornography industry.

“When we hold the largest and most popular porn site accountable it sets an important precedent for all others,” Mickelwait said.

Bill S-203 is the first piece of related legislation to be proposed in the wake of the Traffickinghub campaign.

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