“Shameware”, the anti-porn apps imposed by the Churches in America

"Shameware", le app anti-porno imposte dalle Chiese in America thumbnail

Those who have been imposed call them “Shameware“, While the Churches that have suggested using them define them anti-pornography app. These are software that monitor your smartphone, to check that do not access prohibited content, warning a “partner of responsibility” of what you are doing. And according to new research from Wired USAsome congregations use them to block access to pornography, content they talk about gender and homosexualitybut also to the page from Wikipedia sull’Atheism.

Shameware is much more than an anti-pornography app

Wired spoke to Grant Hao-Wei Lin, a boy who belonged to the church Gracepoint. The young man tells the American newspaper that he had talked to his pastor, who reassured him that God continued to love him, despite what he defines “difficulties with attraction to people of the same sex “.

The pastor then suggested Hao-Wei Lin to install on his smartphone Covenant Eyesan app that would help him “control your impulses “. But Covenant Eyes is just one example, part of a millionaire ecosystem of apps advertised as anti-pornography. But they allow you to control much more.

How far does the control of these applications extend?

The current version of Covenant Eyes created it Michael Holmformer mathematicianNSA which has developed algorithms capable of recognizing the difference between pornographic and non-pornographic material. But several users like Hao-Wei Lin report that it monitors a lot more. Hao-Wei Lin says his chaperone at GracePoint Church contacted him with an email from the subject “Do you have something to tell me?”after he had searched #gay in un social network.

Other users of Covenant Eyes and similar apps (Fortify, Accountable2You) say they received admonitions for products they were buying on Amazon, with one of the users having an interview with their pastor after reading the Wikepedia page under the heading ‘Atheism’.

The spokesperson for Covenant Eyes Dan Armstrong he says the company is “worried” about “people being monitored without proper consent”. And he explains that “relationships of responsibility are better between two people who already know each other and want the best for each other, as friends and family”. By pointing out that I am not recommended when there is an imbalance of power, such as between a pastor and a parishioner.

But Wired USA points out how the marketing of these apps is aimed at churches and congregations, and also all respondents had downloaded the apps after talking to their pastors. And in the statements reported, the religious tone seems quite evident. Michael Holm says that “God put me in that place in that moment for a goal greater than me“, Talking about his role in Covenant Eyes.

The effect of anti-pornography apps on users

The downloads of Covenant Eyes exceed 50,000, those of Fortify 100,000. All of these apps report annual revenues in the order of a few dozen million dollars. Some testimonials report that they helped overcome the pornography addiction. But the experts remain doubtful.

Nicole Praus University of California explains to Wired USA that she has “never seen anyone who has used these apps feel better in the long run. These people end up feeling that there is something wrong with them, when the reality is that it probably isn’t “. Addiction, from pornography as well as from any substance or behavior, must be addressed with the help of experts.

And as far as the control these congregations exercise via the app is concerned, it also seems to exceed the limits of smartphone platforms. Wired explains that after contacting Google, Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You have disappeared from the Play Store. In fact, it appears that they used the API for accessibility for people with disabilities to check users. What is not allowed by the policies. (The iOS app seems to work differently and Apple hasn’t communicated anything about the apps in question).

With the skepticism of experts that they can help manage pornography addiction and excessive controls on everything that happens on users’ smartphones, it seems that the goal of these apps is different. Another former user explains: “It’s not about pornography. It serves to make you conform to what your pastor wants from you ”.