As the official “blog-meister” of Covenant Eyes, I’ve made a professional hobby of monitoring what others are saying about CE in the blogsphere. In the past two days I’ve reviewed over 110 blogs that mention Covenant Eyes and have found myself immersed in the internet world of men and women struggling with pornography addiction. If ever someone needed to know that he/she was not alone in their struggle, we need look no further than MySpace or blogger.com.
Over 80% of the blogs I viewed were very positive in their review of CE, but as with anything, CE is not without its detractors.
For instance, a rather comical blurb, commenting about CE software, simply says: “When satire and reality blur so much you can’t tell what’s going on anymore . . . [CE] Looks real, but it can’t be, it’s just so funny.” To some the idea of Internet accountability is an odd idea. Why allow others into your private life so freely? How will others knowing about my Internet activity prevent me from viewing pornography? What’s the problem with even viewing pornography in the first place?
One of the blogs I ran across was hosted by a site which boasted to be “the world’s largest repository of adult content” and said CE’s business model is “based on humiliation and control.” (If you are a CE user, don’t bother looking for this blog. You’ll find that it contains far more than “questionable” content.)
Finding such detractors is expected in today’s world. Offering CE software to some is like offering a gun to a fish. They look at you and think, “What exactly do you expect me to do with that?”
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What surprised me more was finding blogs critical of CE written by those on my side of the theological fence, those who express a Christian view of the world.
The most interesting blog I’ve read recently comes from a Biblically-based counseling practice in Washington. Here are the blogger’s problems with programs such as Covenant Eyes:
1. “They fail to protect the client or their family from porn. These programs do not stop porn from being viewed. They only report that porn was viewed.” This is true of CE accountability software, but because we now have a filter as well, clients can stop pornography from being viewed. To credit the blogger, the CE filter wasn’t released until this past summer, six months after the blog was written.
2. “They provide accountability AFTER the client has medicated and has acted out! By then it is too late … the client has gotten their ‘fix’ in spite of knowing that there will be consequences.” It is true that the kind of accountability CE software provides reports the web addresses after they have been viewed. But this is where the quality of Accountability Partners is crucial. True healthy accountability for past sins needs to come with some measure of discipline and consequences. To install the software and then only receive casual slaps on the wrist from Accountability Partners renders the software useless.
3. “They often the report the sexual behaviors weeks after the event or never at all. . . . Under this kind of program the client often feels that they can ‘prepare for the worse’ by not being immediately held accountable for their actions. This only encourages them to act out and relapse while hoping that the accountability partner will either miss the accountability report or that they will discount it because the event was two weeks old.” This may be true for other software products, but isn’t true of CE. The default for partners to receive Internet-use reports is 7 days, but this can be changed to any interval, even daily. Plus my record can be viewed online soon after I view a site.
Again the quality of Accountability Partnership is key here. As someone who used to struggle deeply with pornography addiction I used to play the “time game” with Accountability Partners all of the time. I’d avoid talking to them for several days after falling into sin, and then when confronted would confess my sin, but only as a problem that happened “days ago,” or “weeks ago”―and, of course, I would say “everything is under control now.” If the “time game” is a part of someone’s addictive behavior, then this too needs to be confessed and Accountability Partners should receive reports more frequently.
4. “These programs often send the accountability partner the URL addresses for the questionable sites. This then requires the accountability partner to open up and search through the URL site(s) to see if it contains any questionable material. This is very time consuming and dangerous for the accountability partner because of the possibilities of being exposed to porn.” This also isn’t true of CE. Each site is rated for content and also has details about how long the site was viewed. Overall, CE makes it safe for Accountability Partners to never need to view the actual sites and still provide detailed accountability. It is true that viewing a report, especially a messy report, may take a little time. This is what each Accountability Partner accepts as their role to help someone in their struggle with pornography addiction. And if an Accountability Partner still feels a specific site needs to be visited for verification purposes, they can email Covenant Eyes to request a visual inspection and evaluation of that site.
5. “Lastly, it doesn’t take a ‘rocket scientist’ to know that there are numerous ways to bypass these programs so that the accountability partner isn’t fully aware of the client’s attempts to act out. Often when the program suspects that the client is trying to bypass the system they state that the … ‘Report was not sent when expected. This may or may not be due to the client’s attempt to bypass the system.’ Because of this unclear message the client has the potential to fly under the radar while looking for loop holes and/or bypassing the system.” It is true that there is no 100% effective protection system. There are always ways around software, even the best filtering. This is why multiple layers of protection are needed. Obviously CE software is not meant to replace the need for personal repentance, quality accountability, intense discipleship from wise spiritual mentors (Galatians 6:1), or Biblical counseling.
Certainly, we want the best quality accountability and filtering when it comes to protecting our minds and hearts. I agree with the above quoted complaints as they relate to other software that is on the market. To give a false sense of security only prolongs problems with addiction.
I deeply respect the author’s desires to help men achieve freedom from sexual addictions and hope that CE accountability software (along with our new filter) becomes a tool that he can recommend to those he counsels. We who are in the business of helping others find freedom must constantly battle the “minimal effort” approach to accountability and spirituality. The “answer” is never in the latest book or conference or seminar. It is not found in new software. Freedom is found when the Word of God is mixed with faith, aided by intense discipleship from those who feast on the riches of Jesus’ love.