Concerned Mom alerts NCOSE to the pornography available through EBSCO Database to middle schoolers
I am a retired PhD Immunologist living in Colorado and have followed your work. I have become aware of a situation that might be of interest to you. My daughter attends a public middle school, which uses electronic resources for student work. There is pornography embedded in our school’s subscriber resources, which are purchased through EBSCO and other companies. As you may know, EBSCO Information Services is a division of the 3 billion dollar corporation, EBSCO Industries, based out of Alabama.
This problem is much larger than just my daughter, or even our school – EBSCO sells these products to tens of thousands of schools nation wide.
Our school district has been slow to respond and through the course of my own investigation I have contacted some EBSCO officials. I learned that the products which EBSCO sells as “elementary”, “middle” or “high school” are really only sorted by lexile level, a simplistic measure of vocabulary, and are known at the corporate level to contain pornography supplied by their publishing clients. According to one EBSCO representative that I spoke with, there is a contractual arrangement with all publishing clients such that EBSCO is not allowed to censor any material streamed into the databases by its publishers.
The EBSCO school products (Science Reference Center, Literary Reference Center, Poetry and Short Story Reference, Consumer Health Complete and others) are bundled and sold, in our state, to the Colorado Library Consortium, which then parcels the products to schools and other institutions. I called the Manager at the Colorado Library Consortium and he professed to be unaware of the pornography – we even looked at some of it together over the phone and I walked him through where I was finding it. He expressed concern and said he would call his VP contact at EBSCO – but he never got back to me.
The pornography embedded into the EBSCO subscriber databases is gratuitously placed – it “pops up” in unexpected places such that a child might stumble upon it by accident doing a simple search on “grade 7 human biology”, “animals”, “girl’s stories” and so on. The articles have titles such as “Orgasms for All”, “How to Have Hotter Sex”, “The Boyfriend Experience”, “Gauguin Girl,” “Disciplining Sex in Hollywood”, “What’s Knot to Like”, “BDSM Practitioners are Mentally Healthier”, “Mainstreaming BDSM” and so on.
The articles are interfaced such that they are extensively interconnected via live hyperlinked search terms – “lust”, “kink”, “gay bathhouses”, “sexual excitement”, “pornography”, “erotica”, “leather communities” etc. So, basically, once a child locates the first article, they may be curious enough to then click on these search terms and would rapidly find themselves to be overwhelmed with pornographic, and even violent pornographic, articles, some with images, such as naked men in cages.
EBSCO officials, as well as our school district’s IT people, have admitted that it is not possible to filter text and so the full text of these articles will be accessible to students both on and off the school grounds through “resource tiles” loaded into their student accounts and school library websites. In addition to the textual pornography, EBSCO products also contain live links to other websites which are sexually explicit and medically inaccurate – “pop teen” online venues such as, Advocates for Youth, Scarleteen, Coalition for Positive Sexuality“ and so on.