The National Center on Sexual Exploitation released on Monday its 2018 "Dirty Dozen List."
The list highlights well-known companies and entities that are considered to be "mainstream facilitators of sexual exploitation in our society and culture."
For the past five years, NCOSE has produced a watch list that doubles as an activist campaign to pressure companies and entities with "lingering concerns about their committment to ending sexual exploitation" to make much needed changes.
The 2018 list includes several household companies used by million of Americans. And for the first time ever, the organization reserved one spot on the list for Hollywood figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the ongoing #Metoo movement.
"It's a tradition that we continue year after year because it gets results," NCOSE Director of Communications Katherine Blakeman said during a press conference. "We believe that no organization or corporation should profit or contribute to sexual exploitation. Unfortunately, many mainstream companies and groups do just that."
The world's largest online retailer earned a spot on NCOSE's 2018 list.
According to the organization, Amazon.com has items for sale that "sexualize children and normalize the dehumanization and sexual commodification of women."
"Such products include eroticized child nudity photography books, sex dolls (many with childlike features,) and books with 'how to' instructions for sex trafficking," the list states. "Amazon Prime also produces original content that normalizes gratuitous sexual violence against women and softcore pornography as mainstream entertainment."
NCOSE asserts that Backpage.com, an online classified advertising platform, is well known as being "the hub" for prostitution advertising and sex trafficking in the United States.
"The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children noted that 73 percent of their cases involving child sex trafficking involve Backpage.com," Haley Halverson, NCOSE vice president of advocacy and outreach, said during the press conference. "The California attorney general's office reported that 99 percent of Backpage's revenue is directly attributable to its ads selling people for sex. This is not only happening underground or on the darkweb. Backpage is open for everyone to see."
NCOSE warns that Backpage.com serves as a "virtual auction block" that allows buyers to shop for sex with human beings from the privacy of their own living room or smartphone.
"Many of those bought and sold via the website are sexually trafficked women and children," the list warns. "The website facilitates this activity by allegedly editing ads to conceal the illegality of underlying criminal activity."
However, Halverson warns that Backpage.com is receiving "immunity" because of a provision in the federal Communications Decency Act that, she says, "gives websites broad immunity from third-party posts such as ads on a classifieds website even when that website is clearly fostering and environment for illegal activities."
Halverson called on Congress to work to amend the legislation.
Comcast is one of the nation's leading cable television and internet service providers that services millions across 40 states and the District of Columbia. Yet, NCOSE says that the organization is profiting from sexual exploitation.
Through its Xfinity television packages, Comcast provides access to hardcore pornography.
According to NCOSE, Comcast said in 2017 that it would take measures to hide and deceptively sanitize film descriptions and titles so that it would minimize exposure in the eyes of children.
However, NCOSE stressed that the telecommunications conglomerate is still profiting off of things like "teen, incest, and racial-themed pornography."
NCOSE is calling on Comcast to stop distributing hardcore pornography and to implement an "opt-in" model that would require users to have to notify the company if they wish to access pornography.
Many students who have searched for scholarly sources in a public or private school are familiar with EBSCO Information Services and their subscription databases like EBSCONet and EBSCOhost.
Although EBSCO promises schools "fast access to curriculum-appropriate content," some of the company's databases also offer students a way to bypass internet filters in their quest to access pornography while in the classroom or library.
"[I]ts Explora, Science Reference Center, Literary Reference Center, and other products, provide easy access to hardcore pornography sites and extremely graphic sexual content," the list explains. "Innocent searches provide pornographic results."
EBSCO told NCOSE last year that it was "confident" that the sexual explicit material had been removed from its school products. However, researchers were still able to find over 50 sexually graphic articles across four states in just 50 minutes of searching.
"The vast majority of these graphic results came directly from EBSCO's middle school and elementary school databases," the list details. "Since then, some notable improvements have been made in elementary school databases which NCOSE publicly acknowledges and applauds. Unfortunately, EBSCO has failed to clean up middle school and high school databases, and continues to expose minors to sexually graphic and violent content including live links to pornography websites."
Most iPhones come with a pre-downloaded mobile app called iBooks, which provides users with an easy way to access books while on the go. However, NCOSE warns that the app is "filled with erotic literature that supports rape myths, normalizes adult-with-teen-themed and incest-themed exploitation, and reinforces degrading racially charged sexual stereotypes."
Innocent search queries can produce graphic results. Many stories within the app contain themes such as "barely legal" sex, "student-teacher" sex, and even "babysitter" sex. Other themes include the submission of minorities to white males and "forced sex," which Halverson said is tantamount to rape.
"While authors may briefly note the characters are of legal age, the covers feature young girls dressed up as children or in explicitly sexual positions and the motifs are clearly designed to indulge the fantasy of statutory rape between an adult and a young teenager," NCOSE warned. "In fact, many of the book descriptions mention that the girl is reluctant to participate or is involved in 'forced sex.'"
According to NCOSE, the iBooks policy differs from Apple's other policies that have prevented pornography from being available on Apple TV and the Apple app store.
Many enjoy the leading media streaming company Roku because it provides cheaper access to some of their favorite shows, movies and music. However, it also provides backdoor access to hardcore pornographic materials.
"Unfortunately, Roku also facilitates access to hardcore pornography channels through hundreds of private and hidden channels," the list states.
According to the watchdog, Roku's policies on pornographic material stand in sharp contrast to the policies of other streaming services such as Apple TV and Amazon's Fire TV.
"Pornographers are well aware of the backdoor Roku has left open to them," Blakeman said at the press conference. "They widely advertise for their private channels and applaud Roku in forum after forum for being the go-to streaming device to permit this material."
Snap Inc. (Snapchat)
Snapchat has become one of the social networking apps used most by kids today to send pictures back and forth to each other. However, the app is also regularly used to send naked photos.
Snapchat also has a built-in feature called "Snapcash." According to NCOSE, the feature allows users to monetize and profit from exchanging pornography.
"Snapchat's business model facilitates sexual exploitation yielding hefty profits for the company without any regard for the associated harms," NCOSE states. "While Snapchat has made some minor improvements to allow Discover publishers to age-gate content, Snapchat still does not allow users to opt-out of sexually graphic content or to report Snapchat users that are sending sexually explicit photos and videos, or using their Snapchat app to promote or advertise pornography or prostitution."
Over 35 million minors use the online video game distribution service Steam. While Steam offers many of the latest and most popular video games on the market, it also offers 780 games in the categories of "sexual content" and "nudity."
Such games include "House Party" and "Porno Studio Tycoon." According to Blakeman, some games even force women into sex.
NCOSE warns that Steam's age verification process is lacking and is making it easy for children to access pornographic games.
"When videogames include sexually graphic and degrading themes the user is not only a voyeur but an active participant in staging the scene," NCOSE argues. "As our society suffers from the consequences of campus sexual assault, military sexual assault, and rising child-on-child sexual abuse, we see that normalizing the sexual use (and often abuse) of others in video games is irresponsible on the corporate and social level."
According to NCOSE, the premium cable television network HBO is guilty in helping to normalize rape myths, sexual violence, and commercial sexual exploitation.
The network, which is owned by Time Warner, has consistently through the years included sexually exploitive depictions in some of its top programs.
According to NCOSE, such depictions can be found in widely popular shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "The Deuce." NCOSE is calling on HBO to stop producing those shows.
One of the world's most popular social media and news distribution platforms Twitter is also serving as a platform to "disseminate hardcore pornography and facilitate prostitution," NCOSE warns.
According to experts, as many as 10 million Twitter accounts are devoted to pornopgraphy.
"Twitter has come under fire recently for the vast amount of cyber-based sexual harassment, revenge pornography, and even sexually exploited images of children on its platform," the list explains. "We know that pornography is inherently tied to cyber-based sexual harassment, whether in the form of revenge pornography, being spammed with pornography, or having one's virtual identity co-opted by tags to pornography."
The only video sharing platform YouTube, which is owned by Google, came under fire in 2017 for hosting videos that, NCOSE says, targeted children and put children's characters in "sexual charged or violent situations."
According to NCOSE, many of those graphic videos received revenue via YouTube Advertising.
Although YouTube has reacted to the backlash by terminating over 270 accounts and removing hundreds of thousands of videos, NCOSE argues that YouTube is "still rife with problems."
Such problems include having simple search terms — such as "how to have" — autocomplete with child sex themes.
"While YouTube is fixing problems ad hoc whenever they receive concentrated media attention, the website does little to proactively monitor or restrict inappropriate content and it forces users to go through a rigorous process if they want to report the content for removal," NCOSE contends. "It appears that whenever they can get away with it, YouTube allows inappropriate content to remain on its platform in order to generate views and more profit."
The Poster Boys of #MeToo
In breaking with its tradition of only highlighting companies and organizations, NCOSE selected four Hollywood celebrities and media executives who are complicit in fostering a culture of sexual assault and harassment: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen and James Franco.
"These four men have used their power to both harass and abuse others, in addition to shaping America's cultural acceptance of sexual exploitation through their professions," NCOSE states.
According to the list, Weinstein, a film producer and co-founder of Miramax Films, was chosen for his "infamous abuse of power over countless women in the entertainment industry."
Last October, Weinstein was accused by dozens of women of sexual abuse spanning a period of three decades. Subsequent to initial media reports, dozens of other women have come out and accused him of sexual misconduct.
Late last year, Spacey, an Oscar-winning actor, was accused of sexual harassment by over a dozen men, five of whom were teens at the time of their incidents.
As for Allen, the 82-year-old writer, filmmaker and actor, NCOSE argues that he "personifies the elite exploiters who to date remain insulated from the consequences of their actions."
Allen has been accused of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.
NCOSE chose Franco, a popular actor, not only for the accusations of sexual misconduct against him but also for his role in the HBO series "The Deuce."