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New filtering app Canopy uses groundbreaking technology to block porn, sexting

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GRAPEVINE, Texas — Pornography is not just a problem in the United States; it’s a devastating epidemic that is robbing children of their innocence, destroying the traditional family structure and directly contributing to the sex trafficking crisis.

That’s according to Sean Clifford, CEO of Canopy, a Texas-based tech company that uses groundbreaking technology to block pornography and explicit content on the internet. 

“Pornography is so much more graphic, addicting and darker today than it ever has been,” the husband and father of four told The Christian Post. 

“This is an issue that impacts everyone. We have to start with offering a tool to people who want to quit so they can step away from pornography and have the space to heal their hearts and minds. With this service, we’re hoping to provide a space for them to do the other work that is so necessary.”

A software program that works on smartphones, tablets and computers, Canopy utilizes artificial intelligence that can detect pornography and nudity with 99.7% accuracy. It also scans internet traffic in real-time, allowing the service to block pornography that other filters miss. 

Canopy also “closes the back door,” Clifford said, blocking sites regardless of the browser or network used (Josh Duggar was accused of using the “dark web” to bypass software that would report and monitor internet porn usage and download child pornography). 

“We make it so that you can’t circumvent the system; we’ve blocked all the doors,” he explained. 

A key difference between Canopy and other services, Clifford added, is that the program focuses on prevention — not just accountability. Canopy not only completely blocks pornographic websites, but it also detects and censors nudity on individual photos and videos on all websites.

“It used to be sufficient just not to go to the bad sites,” he explained. “But now on Twitter, on Reddit, on all these platforms that are really popular, you can find pornography. We can filter within those sites and pull out the bad from within the otherwise fine [sites] so that you can get the good without the explicit content.” 

Canopy also discourages sexting, an issue Clifford revealed “tripled” in the first month of COVID-19 pandemic “and has only taken off since.”

If a child attempts to take and send a nude photo of themselves, they will be prompted to ask for a parent's permission to send it or to delete it. The app can also be set to a "strict" mode to flag their own personal photos they might try to send out with minimal clothing.

“Kids oftentimes are one step ahead,” Clifford contended. “We want to be a resource for parents: 'Here are the apps. Here’s why kids want them and like them, and here are the pitfalls. Here's how you can navigate this with a little bit more confidence.”

The concept behind Canopy was first developed 13 years ago by Rabbi Moshe Weiss, an Orthodox Jew who wanted to figure out how his community could enter into the online world and enjoy all the benefits without the toxic content that comes with it.

He, along with a handful of others in his community, began the development of a company and product called Netspark. Today, the content filtering tool protects 2 million devices and is used in 90% of Israeli schools.

In 2019, the group started Canopy to bring that same technology to the U.S. The service officially launched earlier this year. 

Clifford said that the first reaction he’s seeing from parents is “relief” when they hear about Canopy.

“Parents are shocked by the porn problem today, but they don't know how to confront it. They feel overwhelmed about the technology, even above and beyond this issue. And when you throw this issue in there, they don't know what to do. It's uncomfortable, and they have to figure it out.”

Because Canopy operates in the background and is focused on enabling access to content, not just blocking it, it doesn’t hamper internet usage.

“Kids will know Canopy is on [their devices], but it's not going to obstruct them,” he posited. “It's not going to significantly impact the user experience. Parents are also relieved that this isn't going to be a source of tension or fight with their kids. You put it on, but then the kids are able to navigate. So parents have peace of mind while kids have freedom.”

Studies show that American adolescents watch much more pornography at a much younger age than their parents know — and it’s shaping their worldviews. The Church isn't immune to the epidemic. Statisticsshow that Christians — and even church pastors — view porn at almost the same rates as the secular world. 

Ted Shimer, the founder of the online addiction recovery program Freedom Fight, told CP that the problem, even in the Church, is particularly severe as Pornhub and other sites “capitalized” on the pandemic lockdowns.

Shimer acknowledged that talking about porn in church is “awkward, uncomfortable and surrounded in shame." But he stressed that it’s “not going away.” 

“Pastors and church leaders need to address it with effective, Gospel-centered, scientifically-informed solutions because it’s not simply going away,” he said, adding that only 7% of churches say they have the resources to assist their members with this addiction.

Clifford agreed that because technology is not going away — and porn addiction is only getting worse — the onus is on parents to raise a generation of healthy tech users. 

“We think Canopy [is] critical. We're starting by limiting access to pornography, but our dreams are to really make sure that parents and families can come together and figure out what's the right thing for them,” Clifford stressed. “We want to give parents the wisdom to help them navigate this, whether it's letting you know what's out in the world, or equipping you to have those good conversations with your kids."

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