October 3, 2019

Progress Report! Comcast Improves Streaming and Internet Tools to Better Protect Families

We have an exciting update from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s recent meeting with top executives from Comcast here in Washington DC.

Right away they told us about how they took our feedback and concerns from our meeting last year and how they have made key improvements based on that feedback! While we are going to list out several specifics in the below portion of this article, even if the above sentence is all you read, you know that vital policy changes have occurred to better protect kids and families in large part because of your support of NCOSE!

With over 20 million subscribers, these changes are making a huge impact!

There are four main platforms by Comcast. 70% of their customers use X1 traditional cable boxes by Comcast, and Comcast also created Flex (an Internet-based ala cart content platform), Stream (a web-based app for accessing content), and Xfi (the modem device for accessing the internet.)

Comcast Video Streaming Platforms

X1, Flex, and Stream – all have the same parental controls and levels. We were extremely impressed with the progress they made in this area! They made all of our suggestions and took our concerns to heart to develop even stronger protections.

Improvements and Positive Functions:

  • By DEFAULT now, safe search and safe browse are turned on across all platforms when it comes to any which way a user might want to search the platforms or content: meaning you can’t accidentally stumble on the “adult” content on their video streaming platforms.
  • They have made Common Sense Media reviews and ratings much more visible and available for every show, film, and app for which they have ratings.
  • Comcast’s kid zone is well-done and can be set by 4 different age group levels up to 13. (In many other services we look at, they have one level only for a child area section)  After age 13, there are robust system controls to continue providing a safe user environment.
  • Comcast improved their system controls dramatically over the past year as well. They took our suggestion of having more than 2 levels of filtering and now there are 4! You can, of course, restrict to medium safety which blocks pornography and x-rated content. We are impressed that you can break down the controls to filter/block on a variety of levels now, from age to rating, to title-specific, and channel-specific. You can even turn off services during certain times of the day. This is an impressive standard we will work to get implemented by others in this space.
  • Their app store does not allow pornographic or sexually explicit apps.

Comcast as an Internet Service Provider

Xfi, Comcast’s Internet tool, is what we were most eager to discuss with them. Last year there was no way to monitor or restrict content at the ISP, or modem, level, but now there is!

You can now set up profiles based on users in your home and then restrict per user their total usage time, time of day they can have Internet access, and you can set a filter at the modem level to restrict content for child users.

This is significant progress!

We are encouraged by their work and their promise of ongoing dialogue moving forward. We do see areas still needing improvement (they are still selling some pornography) and will continue to work with them on those.

Nevertheless, we are grateful to Comcast for stepping up as a leader in this space and look forward to working with them to make these industry-wide standards.

None of this would be possible without your support! Please consider a donation to NCOSE to help improve more policies like these.

Haley McNamara (Halverson)

Vice President and Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation

Haley McNamara (formerly Halverson) is the Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation in the UK, and a Vice President at the U.S. based National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She leads international efforts and joint campaigns to improve policies and education among global governing bodies, citizenry, and corporations regarding the full web of sexual exploitation issues. Her advocacy work has contributed to policy improvements in social media, online advertising, retail, and hotel industries. She has advocated at the United Nations, led international coalition campaigns, presented to Danish, Croatian, Colombian and Rwandan government officials, and more

She is a former member of the Washington DC Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. This Committee advises DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on the multi-faceted continuum of the District of Columbia’s child welfare services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment, and sources of permanency.

Haley regularly speaks and writes on topics including child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, prostitution, sexual objectification, the exploitation of males, and more. She has presented before officials at the United Nations, as well as at several national symposia before influencers from the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Croatian government officials. She has provided training to Arlington County Child & Family Services on the social media grooming, recruitment, and advertising for sex trafficking. She has a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University where she received honors for her thesis regarding the online commercial sexual exploitation marketplace.

Previously, Haley served for two years as Director of Communications for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation where she oversaw strategic messaging development, press outreach, email marketing, and social media marketing.

Prior to working at NCOSE, Haley wrote for a cultural media outlet. Haley graduated from Hillsdale College (summa cum laude) with a double major, and conducted a senior thesis on the abolitionist argument regarding prostitution. During her studies, she studied abroad at Oxford University and established a background in policy research through several internships in the DC area.

Haley has appeared on, or been quoted in, several outlets including the New York Times, NBC’s The Today Show, BBC News, New York Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, Voice of America, Dr. Drew Midday Live, The DeMaio Report, the New York Daily News, the Washington Examiner, USA Radio Network, the Washington Times, CBC News, The Rod Arquette Show, The Detroit News, Lifezette, The Christian Post, Lifeline with Neil Boron, EWTN News Nightly, KCBS San Francisco Radio, LifeSiteNews, The Drew Mariano Show on Relevant Radio, News Talk KGVO, and American Family News.

She has written op-eds for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, FoxNews.com, Washington Examiner, Townhall.com, Darling Magazine, the Daytona-Beach News Journal, and has been published in the Journal of Internet Law and the journal Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and ViolenceShe has also contributed to a digital middle school curriculum regarding the links between sex trafficking and pornography as well as the public health impacts of sex trafficking.

Further Reading