Anti-online porn program
with a twist

By Ron Strom

A new method of self-protection against Internet pornography is now on the market, providing a built-in system of technological tattling when an Internet user falls to temptation and takes a look at sexually explicit material online.

NetAccountability, a nonprofit organization begun by a group of Christian men, offers software it calls “the first line of defense against online temptation.” The program, in effect, turns your computer into a porn policeman, keeping a record of pornographic websites visited on the organization’s server.

The user’s “NetAccountability partner,” whom the member designates when signing up for the service, can then go in and access an online report of the software user’s Internet activity. The partners are then encouraged to “meet in person for accountability and encouragement.”

“We have created a safer way to surf by building an effective software tool that provides functional accountability for online behavior,” says the group’s website.

While pornography filters for the Net have been around for years, this is the first approach that stresses accountability to others over filter technology. The organization believes filters, which are not 100 percent effective and are sometimes over-aggressive in the sites they block, are not the right approach in dealing with Net porn.

“We believe that the combination of real, human accountability and the NetAccountability software is the only behavior-changing solution to the problem of Internet pornography,” the group says.

Brandon Cotter, founder of NetAccountability, told WND that while “filtering and blocking are good for children, most adults don’t want others making decisions for them.”

The organization’s website points out that there are millions of pornographic websites on the Internet that take in billions of dollars per year. Of those consuming online porn, 98.9 percent are men, the site noted.

So does the approach work? NetAccountability provides several testimonials.

“NetAccountability has really helped me keep a hedge around my heart as I am surfing. Knowing that I will talk with my buddies in a few days and that they will see a report of my surfing – it motivates me to be as pure as possible,” said one user.

Cotter explained how the organization began. Having worked on Internet endeavors for several years, he began talking to pastors and Christian leaders about what is needed on the Web.

“They said, ‘The huge problem is with Internet pornography,'” Cotter said. He became convinced his next project would be developing a way for surfers to hold each other accountable for what sites they visit.

The NetAccountability program was launched in October and, Cotter says, has been very well-received. There was such a need for this type of product, he said, “it was like selling ice water in the dessert.”

Cotter would not say how many members his new program has, nor would he talk specifically about how the software works, for proprietary reasons.

“The software watches traffic as it goes in and out of your machine,” he explained. It then makes a note of possibly questionable sites, encrypts the information and then sends it to the group’s server. From there it is available for a user’s partner to see on the online report.

While Cotter believes it works best if two men are each other’s accountability partners, he mentioned that a man’s wife could also be his partner.

“Ideally, it’s another Christian man who meets with you once a week,” he said, adding that each partner should agree to be vulnerable and ask the “hard questions” of the other.

Mentioning the negative effects of online porn, Cotter stressed that even a small amount of consumption can lead down a slippery slope of destruction.

“Society would like us to think pornography is a victimless crime,” he said, “but it’s not.”

Cotter explained that a porn habit can easily turn into an addiction, with the user needing more and more. “There’s never a good stopping point,” he said.

But what about privacy concerns when personal surfing data is recorded on a server at a secret location?

“We have major safeguards to protect privacy,” Cotter said, “and we never sell anyone’s information.”

For those wanting a way to have access to the entire Net but still avoid porn, he says, it’s the best solution.

Said Cotter, “It’s like having a buddy looking over your shoulder while you surf.”