Are lib­erals finally waking up to the internet pornog­raphy pandemic? 

Two cheers to the New York Times, which recently pub­lished an incredibly dis­turbing and eye-opening feature by Nicholas Kristof, “The Children of Pornhub”, which pro­duced some hand-wringing from some major credit-card com­panies. Who knows whether the self-exam­i­nation is sincere, or merely a per­functory statement till the storm passes over. 

Last week the lewd media platform OnlyFans announced that it was banning “sex­ually explicit” material from its platform, only to reverse its decision a day later. In Monday’s New York Times fem­inist law pro­fessor Catharine MacK­innon roasts them, telling the ugly truth about the reality of so-called “sex work.” Whether this moment can turn into a movement is up to us. 

I recently made my own effort to deal with this issue when I acci­den­tally stumbled across a podcast entitled “XXX audio.” (I was looking for pod­casts for a family trip, and my kids had told me there were some available on Spotify). Well, that title caught my attention, espe­cially since Spotify adver­tises that its “Family Account,” which we sub­scribe to, offers an “explicit material” filter for parents, which I had on all of my devices. I scrolled down and noticed titles like “Strap­mother Penetration.”

I lis­tened with shock as it described how a stepson and his friend tie his step­mother to the bed and rape her. There are other shocking things available on this side of the parent filter. I imme­di­ately con­tacted Spotify about this. The con­ver­sation was so bad as to be almost comic. I made a copy of the tran­script for anyone who is interested. 

First, they wanted spe­cific details of the objec­tionable material, including the “time­stamp.” (I had to look that one up). OK. Boys tie up and rape stepmom. Bad enough? They then told me that the “filter” is self-reg­u­lated by the providers. So I asked whether there is any process inside Spotify for reviewing providers who are mis­re­porting? They could not and would not affirm whether there is such a process. 

I asked to be bumped up to a super­visor. The super­visor could not and would not assure me that there was any process in Spotify for fil­tering explicit material. I gently told the super­visor in no uncertain terms that this is false adver­tising to the parents who are using the Spotify Family Plan and think they are getting a safe product, and that I would publish our con­ver­sation. I invited him to think again and try to answer my question. He doubled down, and told me that someone at Spotify would contact me very quickly about this matter. 

It’s been two weeks, and no answer. Moreover, the material is still up and available.

If you want to do your part to make this “moment” against a culture of sexual exploitation into a “movement,” please cir­culate this story to anyone you know and encourage them to boycott Spotify. 

Nathan Schlueter is a pro­fessor of phi­losophy and religion.