provide human feedback that filters don’t
By John W. Kennedy
When sexually perverted
text, photographs and video images started to invade the Internet,
dozens of companies began marketing filters to keep curious or
unsuspecting Web users from stumbling upon those salacious sites.
Yet the public quickly learned that filtering software designed
to keep both children and adults from viewing objectionable materials
doesn’t catch every objectionable site. Conversely, filters
can block desirable information, such as a chicken breast recipe
or research on testicular cancer.
more and more frequently are selecting innocuous sounding or deliberately
misspelled domain names to bait Web users. Sex purveyors also
have become more aggressive in marketing, sending computer users
e-mails that are directly linked to their porn businesses.
Two companies started
by Christians believe filters are not enough. They emphasize the
importance of personal accountability. The companies offer an
accountability service that customers can purchase with a monthly
fee. So far, tens of thousands of clients have signed up.
Covenant Eyes and NetAccountability
don’t block Web sites. They operate under the premise that
a person is unlikely to spend time on a sexually oriented site
if he knows a confidant will confront him with the evidence. Under
the plans, an accountability partner is privy to every Web site
that his friend has viewed.
means you know someone will know what you are doing on the Net,”
says Lynn T. McClurg, 46, vice president of distribution and marketing
for Covenant Eyes. “If the temptation is strong enough,
a man can figure out every filter known to mankind.” The
name of the Corunna, Mich.-based company, started in 2000, is
inspired by Job 31:1 (NIV): “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.”
Covenant Eyes works
like this: A client downloads the program onto his or her computer
login screen. The person cannot visit a Web site without a Covenant
Eyes user name and password. Once on the Internet, Covenant Eyes
software tracks and records every URL, assigning a score to each
based on a scan of the Web address and text. A report of the activity
is sent to his accountability partner, with higher scores appearing
at the top of the list. Once installed, the program cannot be
bypassed even if the user switches to another Internet provider.
The only way to stop it is to request an uninstall code from Covenant
Eyes and then the company immediately notifies the accountability
partner. Evidence of a site visit cannot be erased. Any attempt
to disable the program without first obtaining an uninstall code
from Covenant Eyes results in Internet access being shut down.
Computers at the company’s headquarters monitor the sites,
so staff members don’t actually view the content themselves.
On a weekly, biweekly
or monthly basis the user as well as the friend receive an e-mailed
accountability log that has recorded all the sites visited, plus
the amount of time spent there. Covenant Eyes is endorsed by a
host of Christian organizations, including Promise Keepers, Focus
on the Family and HonorBound, the national men’s ministry
of the Assemblies of God.
Ron Turner, director
of clinical services to ministers and missionaries at EMERGE Ministries
in Akron, Ohio, also heartily supports the Covenant Eyes accountability
partner program. “Men must make a plan that outsmarts their
weakness,” says Turner, 53.
launched last October, also has the backing of a variety of Christian
ministries and is similar to Covenant Eyes but without the comprehensive
e-mailed reports. “I know if I go there my buddy is going
to see it,” says Brandon Cotter, 33, founder of NetAccountability.
“Filtering is an ‘install and forget’ solution,
whereas accountability is ‘install and begin’ —
the beginning of a relationship with another person of true accountability.”
Ideally, a person should
have two others to whom he or she is accountable, McClurg says,
citing safety in numbers. A wife isn’t the best person to
police her husband because questions about Internet use can cause
additional stress in a marriage in which pornography already has
been deemed problematic, McClurg says.
While it may be better
for another man to monitor a man’s online activities, Turner
says a wife should be aware of what trigger mechanisms provide
temptation. In a healthy relationship, he says, a wife should
encourage and pray for her husband.
A transparent relationship
in which a man or woman is willing to be confronted in love by
his or her accountability partner is the key. Many accountability
partners meet weekly for prayer and fellowship.
“Some days we
are strong, some days we are not,” McClurg says. “Covenant
Eyes is the way of escape.”
Turner says the key
to such programs working is an accountability partner who asks
straightforward questions. “It must be more than ‘How
are you doing this week?’ ” Turner says. “A
faithful friend will hold your feet right to the fire.”
Charles A. Brewster,
HonorBound national director, notes that protection software isn’t
a spiritual quick fix for stopping lust. “They are, however,
an attempt to protect men from subtle unplanned attacks,”
Brewster says. “We need to do everything we can to prevent
ourselves from falling.”
Purveyors of porn lately
have become more deceptive, attaching their products in e-mail
messages purportedly from a friend or relative.
are not just selling their wares to those who are asking for them,”
Cotter says. “They have all kinds of sneaky ways to turn
temptation into addiction.”
is a tool like a power saw or drill,” McClurg says. “It
has to be used with respect and care.”