One of America’s most profitable companies and most beloved brands, McDonald’s, has shown that corporations can behave responsibly for the safety of all of its customers.  Recently, the company decided it would filter its public Wi-Fi to block both pornography and child pornography (child abuse images) from being viewed in its restaurants.

Internet safety is now the fourth top-ranked health issue for U.S. children. Internet pornograrphy has been called the largest unregulated social experiment in history with peer-reviewed research showing that online porn is in fact a public health crisis.

Recently, both the state of Utah and the proposed platform for the GOP have declared pornography a public health issue.

There is much scientific research on the deleterious effects of Internet pornography on the developing brains of children and teens and fueling role of porn on child sexual exploitation and predation. 

According to federal officials, public Wi-Fi services are increasingly being used to traffic child pornography, the sexual solicitation of children, and other criminal activities such as identity theft, hacking and terrorism. These criminal felonies are difficult to deter because of the anonymity offered by open Wi-Fi hotspots.

In fact, nearly half of all teens believe that sending naked pictures and sexually explicit images of themselves or others are part of everyday life. Two-thirds of teenage girls and half of all teenage boys believe it would be easier growing up if pornography were harder to access. 

Parents need to know which family restaurants are safer from online threats. 

Additionally, according to federal officials, public Wi-Fi services are increasingly being used to traffic child pornography, the sexual solicitation of children, and other criminal activities such as identity theft, hacking and terrorism. These criminal felonies are difficult to deter because of the anonymity offered by open Wi-Fi hotspots.

My organization, Enough Is Enough,  launched the “National Porn Free Wi-Fi” campaign” in the fall of 2014, with nearly 50,000 petitions and 75 partner organizations encouraging McDonald’s and Starbucks to lead corporate America in filtering Wi-Fi. Both companies were early adopters in the U.K., where they voluntarily filtered pornography and child pornography on their public Wi-Fi networks under the private public U.K. initiative led by Prime Minister Cameron.

McDonald’s responded rapidly and positively to the initial outreach to their CEO in spring 2014, and began exploring options for WiFi filtering. To date, over two years later, Starbucks has yet to respond.

In the first quarter of 2016, McDonald’s began to implement their new filtered Wi-Fi policy in their corporate-owned restaurants in the U.S., and made the same service available to their franchisees.  While McDonald's wasn't aware of any pornography related incidents in their stores, their move to offer filtered Wi-Fi is clearly a major step in the right direction. The bottom line -- the majority of McDonald’s restaurants now offer safer Wi-Fi access for their patrons.

Parents now can have peace of mind that when they or their children go to McDonald’s, they will have a safer and more friendly Wi-Fi experience, free from pornography, from child porn and from potential sexual exploitation and predation. 

McDonald’s deserves widespread praise for this act of corporate responsibility and commitment to children and family safety.

By proactively filtering pornography and child porn on their Wi-Fi, McDonald’s now joins others such as Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread in demonstrating their commitment to provide safe and secure Wi-Fi resulting in a family friendly environment for all of their patrons. Other companies that offer free public Wi-Fi need to realize that that corporate responsibility is also good customer service.

Implementing a safe friendly Wi-Fi policy and effective filtering is a win-win for restaurants, hotels, resorts, airports, airlines, shopping malls, theme parks and other companies that offer free public WiFi . Safe and secure WiFi effectively helps to :

  • Prevent children, teens and other patrons from being exposed to pornography and child pornography.
  • Prevent children and teens from easily bypassing filters and other parental control tools set up by their parents on their Internet devices.
  • Prevent sexual predators from accessing illegal child and flying under the radar of law enforcement.
  • Avoid a potential hostile work environment for company employees.
  • Protect hard-earned family-friendly brand; and
  • Maintain consistency regarding corporate best practices and family-friendly policies.

The ubiquity of online devices and the constant customer flow in public restaurants make this action necessary.  The action taken by McDonald’s is commendable and an example to businesses around the world. Other companies would be wise to follow McDonald’s lead.  

Donna Rice Hughes is CEO and President of Enough Is Enough® and has been a pioneering leader on the front lines to prevent the Internet enabled exploitation of children and families since 1994. She is a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of South Carolina. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect that of her organization. EIE is a non-partisan, non-profit organization and does not endorse or oppose candidates for office. For more information visit www.enough.org and view the Internet Safety 101" TV series.