Pope Francis speaking at a conference in Rome on Friday urged the executives of leading internet companies to use “their great profits” to defend children from sexual exploitation and other dangers lurking online.
The pope said that the Catholic Church needed to accept responsibility “before God, victims and public opinion” for its own sex abuse scandals, but wanted to share the lessons it had learned.
Addressing participants including representatives from Facebook and Microsoft, he said that social media businesses had to do more than set up filters and algorithms to block harmful content.
The 80-year-old pope spoke against the spread of extreme pornography.
He said the dangers of so-called “sexting” between young people and between adults and children, and cyber bullying was “a true form of moral and physical attack”.
According to him, heinous, illicit activities such as the commissioning and live viewing of rape and violence against minors via the so-called Dark Web has to be stopped.
The Church-organised conference called“Child Dignity in the Digital World’’ was held two months after a monsignor was recalled from the Vatican’s Washington Embassy in August.
The conference took place after the U.S. State Department said he may have violated child pornography laws.
Church officials have been caught up in a series of scandals around the world in the last two years.
The Vatican put its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, an archbishop on trial for child sex offences.
He died before a verdict was reached.
The conference, brought together experts from digital companies, law enforcement, medicine and academia to discuss online bullying, pornography and the preying on children by pedophiles.
The pope said that social media businesses had to invest “a fair portion of their great profits” to protect “impressionable minds”.
He said it would be a mistake to think that “automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems”.
“Businesses also have to address the broader ethical concerns associated with the growth of technology, rejecting the concept of an `ideological and mythical’ vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom”.
The pope said that while the digital revolution had enormous advantages, “we rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp”.