“I’d like a grande latte, plus access to internet porn, please.”

At many restaurants and stores, free public Wi-Fi comes with your morning coffee or your child’s Happy Meal. While the convenience of this connectivity allows many to work or surf the net for fun at public cafés or fast food joints, a growing number of people use public Wi-Fi to view pornography.

With public Wi-Fi serving as an unwitting channel for pornography to creep into our children’s field of vision and attracting felons – all in public squares – large corporations continue to ignore the public outcry for change. A growing movement, National P*rn Free Wi-Fi Campaign, has been calling on Starbucks and McDonald’s as early as March 2014 to filter their Wi-Fi networks. Today, 46,500 petitions signatures later, even with the formation of a coalition of more than 75 organizations, this public safety issue still is yet to be addressed at the corporations’ shareholders meetings.

So what’s the big deal with unfiltered public Wi-Fi? What happens if Starbucks and McDonald’s didn’t do something to make their networks safer?

Imagine teenage girls chat over a Frappuccino after school, just one table over from someone browsing sexually explicit materials. Children in the play area can be just five feet from a man, sitting in plain view, watching pornographic films. These are not simply potential scenarios; they have happened and reported (http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Man-Arrested-at-Starbucks-for-Allegedly-Looking-at-Child-Porn-146895635.html).

Perhaps more dangerous is that, according to federal officers, the anonymity of public Wi-Fi attracts criminals to engage in sexual solicitation of children and trafficking of child pornography right there in public places (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/10/AR2007021001457.html). On December 29, 2014, USA Today reported the arrest of a registered sex offender while he was allegedly downloading child pornography at a Hillsboro, Washington Starbucks. (USA Today News Story, December 29, 2014).

The availability of unfiltered public Wi-Fi also means that children and teenagers whose parents turn on filtering controls on their home internet service can bypass those parental controls and freely access pornographic materials in public. Even when they are not looking for explicit material, a misspelling on search engines could expose them to images or otherwise lead them to pornographic sites – everything from adult pornography (the kind of images that appear in Playboy and Penthouse) to federally prosecutable obscene material depicting graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, bestiality and violence. Even illegal content depicting the actual sexual abuse of a child (child pornography) — once only found on the black market — is instantly available and accessible on the Internet.

It’s long been established that usage of internet pornography leaves profoundly destructive consequences on the mental, emotional and sexual health of adolescents. Use of pornography can also lead to addictive and even criminal behavior. Protecting children from pornography is not merely a morality issue; it’s a global public health issue. Recent studies also show that online pornography fuels the sexual exploitation of children, violence against women, sex trafficking, addiction and the breakdown of marriage.

Unfiltered public Wi-Fi poses real threat to our society, and it’s high time that businesses take measures to make their Wi-Fi policies family-friendly and safe for their customers.

This is the clarion call of Enough Is Enough’s National P*rn Free Wi-Fi Campaign. Launched on October 2, 2014, this initiative calls on corporate America to join the fight to prevent the Internet-initiated sexual exploitation of children, as one of the latest efforts in EIE’s campaign to provide internet safety for children for more than twenty years.

The initial phase of EIE’s P*rn Free Wi-Fi Campaign targets McDonald’s and Starbucks. With a combined 25,000 stores in the U.S., these two corporate giants have locations in every street corner of our largest cities and towns, offering not just food and beverages, but also free, unfiltered, public Wi-Fi. Left unfiltered, these Wi-Fi hotspots can encourage or assist in criminal activity. However, as industry leaders, they are in a unique position to lead the way in the U.S. to provide safe public internet for their patrons.

Offering filtered, porn-free Wi-Fi will prove a win-win step for businesses and their patrons – corporations build a reputation of corporate responsibility and good corporate citizenship, and patrons and their families enjoy a safe environment without worries of being around sexual predators.

Although providing filtered public Wi-Fi could bring significant improvement in safety for customers of these businesses, it’s not a drastic or unprecedented measure in the US. Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread already filter pornography, child pornography and other inappropriate content on their Wi-Fi networks.

Even McDonald’s and Starbucks locations in the UK have long been filtering their Wi-Fi networks under an industry-wide self-regulation initiative led by Prime Minister David Cameron. As Cameron indicated, “this has never been a debate about companies or government censoring the Internet, but about filters to protect children” (http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2013/07/22/david-cameron-s-porn-speech-in-full). The United Kingdom further launched a nationwide “Friendly Wi-Fi” accreditation scheme to denote the cafes, restaurants and other businesses that offer public Wi-Fi access meeting a minimum level of filtering.

“If McDonald’s and Starbucks can protect children from pornography and child pornography in other nations, they should do so here in the U.S.,” said Donna Hughes, EIE President and CEO. “Offering safe Wi-Fi is in alignment with both McDonald’s and Starbucks’ corporate best practices and family-friendly policies. This would be a win-win for families and the companies’ respective brands. It’s not about censorship; it’s about corporate responsibility and good corporate citizenship.”

As part of EIE’s P*rn Free Wi-Fi Campaign, a public petition was launched and gathered 46,500 signatures, along with signatures of leaders of 75 organizations, on a petition letter addressed to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Organizations that have partnered with EIE in this campaign include The National Children’s Advocacy Center, The Salvation Army, The Home School Legal Defense Association, The Family Research Council, The American Family Association, Focus on the Family’s Citizens Link, Parents’ Television Council, The Center for Family & Human Rights, and Concerned Women for America.

Since delivering the certified letter in March 2015, neither corporation provided official response to the petition. The issue was completely ignored at Starbucks’ annual shareholder meeting on March 18, 2015. On May 21, 2015, McDonald’s shareholder meeting likewise did not address the petition for filtered Wi-Fi, as it disregarded other demands and protests for policy changes, such as higher wages. They did, however, issue preliminary statements:

Starbucks – “While we don’t have a specific enterprise-wide, global policy on what customers can and cannot access on our free in-store Wi-Fi, we do reserve the right to stop any behavior that interferes with our customer experience.”

McDonald’s- “We are always open to continuous improvement and will take the issues raised under advisement. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to providing a safe environment for our customers.”

Responding to the corporations’ slow to action, Hughes remarked, It’s stunning to me that McDonald’s and Starbucks, which already filter child pornography and pornography on their Wi-Fi in the UK and Australia, are not providing that same level of protection for children and families in America where they are headquartered.

A mom brings her kids to get a Happy Meal, and there’s a man in an adjoining booth enjoying hard-core pornography or even child pornography? Law enforcement reports this has happened.  If parents understood that strangers can view hard-core pornography and child pornography in front of their kids in these establishments, I believe they would join us in saying, “Enough is enough!”

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