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Did UNICEF say blocking children’s access to pornography constitute human rights’ infringement?

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CLAIM 1: A Twitter user claims UNICEF said any efforts to block children from accessing pornography might infringe their human rights.

 

CLAIM 2:  A website report shared by the Twitter user claims UNICEF said pornography is not always harmful to children.

UNICEF in its report explained that though there are different kinds of risks and harms that have been linked to children’s exposure to pornography but there is ‘no consensus’ on the ‘degree’ to which pornography is harmful to children.

Full Story

A Twitter user, Anitabook.com (@JackPosobiec), on May 31, 2021, tweeted a report from an online medium, C-fam.org, which claims that the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report says pornography is not always harmful to children.

His tweet was accompanied by a caption saying: “BREAKING: UNICEF says any efforts to block children from accessing pornography online might infringe on their human rights.”

The tweet has so far garnered over 3,500 retweets, more than 1,000 comments and over 3,500 likes as of Friday, June 4.

Further checks show that several Twitter users have shared the same post quoting the same medium. 

Verification

Checks by Dubawa show that the report was hinged on an April 2021 report published by UNICEF.

The report titled “Digital Age Assurance Tools and Children’s Rights Online across the Globe” explores the relationship between children’s rights, business and the Internet.

The report also addressed central themes, including children’s rights to privacy, freedom of expression, information, education and non-discrimination.

What UNICEF actually  said on pornography and children

UNICEF in its report explained that there are different kinds of risks linked to children’s exposure to pornography but that there is no consensus on the degree to which pornography is harmful to children.

The report reads in part; “Access to pornography at a young age is linked with poor mental health, sexism and objectification, sexual aggression and other negative outcomes.

“The evidence suggests that some children appear to be harmed by exposure to some kinds of pornography at least some of the time, but that the nature and extent of that harm vary. There is conflicting evidence regarding how many children worldwide are accessing pornography online, and how often. 

“Some studies have found that boys are more likely to experience greater exposure to pornography at an earlier age, and they are more likely to be exposed to violent or abusive images such as rape, whereas girls are more likely to be subject to involuntary or problematic exposure.”

UNICEF also notes that its conclusion is based on an online study from 19 European countries which claims that most children who saw saw sexual images online “were neither upset nor happy, ranging from 27 per cent in Switzerland to 72 per cent in Lithuania; between 10 per cent and 4 per cent were fairly or very upset; and between 3 per cent of children (in Estonia) and 39 per cent (in Spain) reported feeling happy after seeing such images.”

UNICEF further explained that in Europe, restricting children’s access to certain kinds of pornography online is generally considered a legitimate aim by governments, whereas in the US, this is seen by the courts as an infringement of constitutional rights to freedom of speech, while in many other countries, pornography is entirely illegal.

Checks show that UNICEF has taken down the report from its website and has replaced it with an edited report.

Conclusion

Even though UNICEF has deleted its initial report and replaced with an edited report, the claim that the organisation said pornography is not always harmful to children is misleading. Instead, what UNICEF said in its report is that there is no agreement to on the degree to which pornography is harmful to children.

It, however, didn’t state that any efforts to block children from accessing pornography might infringe their human rights, thus making the claim misleading.

A screenshot of UNICEF’s report

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with The Nigerian Tribune to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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