The Guardian Continues Publishing Anti-Porn Articles Funded by U.S. Billionaire

The Guardian Continues Publishing Anti-Porn Articles Funded by U.S. Billionaire

NEW YORK — Over three years after XBIZ reported on how an obscure U.S. foundation was sponsoring anti-porn content in The Guardian newspaper, the self-proclaimed “world’s leading liberal voice” continues publishing slanted pieces calling for state regulation of adult content online.

For several years, most of these pieces, sensationalizing supposed harms being inflicted on minors and adults by exposure to sexually explicit content, have been authored by a single freelancer, Harriet Grant.

Grant’s recent attention-demanding headlines include: "Thousands of U.K. Young People Caught Watching Online Child Abuse Images," “U.K. School Pupils ‘Using AI to Create Indecent Imagery of Other Children,” “Pornography Driving U.K. Teens Towards Child Abuse Material, Say Experts,” “‘It Stole My Soul’: Readers on How Watching Porn at a Young Age Affected Their Life,” and “A Fifth of Teenagers Watch Pornography Frequently and Some Are Addicted, U.K. Study Finds.”

The above-mentioned articles ran in 2023, parallel with a relentless campaign by the Tory government and its media allies to pass the Online Safety Act, which finally became law in October after many years of delays.

The Online Safety Act, criticized by virtually all online privacy and digital rights advocacy groups and activists, grants broad powers to the politicians and bureaucrats appointed to the U.K.’s media regulatory agency, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), to target material they consider “harmful,” essentially reestablishing content-based state censorship in the U.K.

Although a few of Grant’s pieces stoking anti-porn panic have run as actual Guardian articles, several others are discreetly labeled as partnerships between The Guardian Foundation and the vaguely named U.S. nonprofit Humanity United.

As XBIZ reported in March 2020, these articles look almost exactly like the rest of The Guardian’s online content, with the same font, design, artwork, layout and out-links to other stories.

Framing All Porn as 'Exploitation' and 'Trafficking'

In 2020, The Guardian classified these invariably anti-porn reports as part of its “Exploitation in Focus” series, noting the content was produced “under the sponsorship of Humanity United.”

The Guardian pieces included quotes from Labour politicians claiming that the then-pending Online Safety Act didn’t go far enough and asserting that the government needed to “get control” over the adult industry. They also offered a platform to religiously inspired Exodus Cry mouthpiece Laila Mickelwait to conflate consensual and nonconsensual adult content, and openly advocate for shutting down Pornhub.

Buried in the small print next to each sponsored article, a link led to a page where The Guardian disclosed that the “Exploitation in Focus” series was “supported, in part, through a grant to TheGuardian.org by Humanity United, a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems that have long been considered intractable.”

A disclaimer described the Humanity United content as “editorially independent” and covering “modern-day slavery.” As XBIZ noted, by categorizing its pornography coverage as falling under this heading, The Guardian implicitly conflated legal, consensual adult entertainment production and distribution with human trafficking.

The Omidyar Network

Launched in 2008, Humanity United represents itself as “dedicated to cultivating the conditions for enduring freedom and peace” and states that, as part of its core mission, it “builds, leads, and supports efforts to change the systems that contribute to problems like human trafficking, mass atrocities, and violent conflict.”

The organization’s webpage discloses that the nonprofit is “part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of organizations, each guided by its own approach, but united by a common desire to catalyze social impact.”

The Omidyar Group is the philanthropic arm of billionaire couple Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Pierre Omidyar founded eBay and wrote the proprietary code that underlies it.

Pam Omidyar, who describes herself as “a philanthropist, mom, and ocean lover,” steers the Omidyar Network, “a philanthropic investment firm, funding both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to create opportunity for individuals around the world to improve their own lives.”

“Soon after the creation of Omidyar Network, there was a clear realization that there are some people who are unable to take advantage of the economic opportunities Omidyar Network creates,” the couple’s philanthropic literature proclaims. “As a result, Pam had a vision for the creation of Humanity United — a foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems that have long been considered intractable.”

Journalism vs. Paid Advocacy

Back in 2020, the Humanity United logo could be found on the articles penned by Harriet Grant demonizing the adult industry and advocating for state intervention. However, while the 2023 articles still link out to a page disclosing the Humanity United funding, they only display the logo of TheGuardian.org. 

TheGuardian.org is a nonprofit, connected to The Guardian news organization, whose avowed advocacy mission is “to advance and inform public discourse and citizen participation around the most pressing issues of our time through the support of independent journalism and journalistic projects.”

TheGuardian.org, its literature states, “will identify projects where it can partner across a range of organizations including academic institutions, other charitable organizations, non-profit media, and NGOs.”

Although many people associate The Guardian news organization with the U.K., where it originated, and with the British political left, wealthy members of the U.S. business and nonprofit elite comprise the bulk of the TheGuardian.org’s board.

A disclaimer states that in order to comply with non-profit regulations, “the only restriction to the Guardian’s coverage is where Humanity United is prohibited under U.S. law from directly funding or earmarking funds” to “conduct lobbying or otherwise attempt to influence legislation.” Any communications to the public in which a view is expressed about a specific legislative proposal, the disclaimer continues, “must provide a reasoned, objective consideration of facts and issues in a full and fair manner that enables third parties to develop their own positions on any legislation that may be discussed.”

Grant’s latest piece, published on Monday, claims that “thousands of U.K. young people” were “caught” watching CSAM. While the article and the law enforcement sources it quotes discuss sexting and other sharing of self-generated images among teens, it then abruptly concludes with an incongruous quote seemingly conflating those issues with legally produced adult content, and advocating for a specific, controversial piece of legislation: “Police forces and charities called for the swift implementation of the online safety bill, which includes the implementation of age-verification measures to protect children from pornography.”

A Policeman Muses About Human Sexual Development

Grant appears to make little or no effort to contact stakeholders with actual knowledge of the adult industry. Instead, her pieces regularly quote conservative members of law enforcement, religious activists and government officials disparaging adult content in the broadest terms and making sweeping claims based on unquestioned “scientific reports” or surveys. 

The Monday piece includes quotes from Tony Garner, a West Mercia policeman who has worked with religious anti-porn groups and believes that “access to very extreme pornography” is literally changing people’s brains.

“I’ve been in policing 20 years and have been scratching my head the past couple of years about the harm we are seeing,” Garner told Grant about what he considers especially “abhorrent” material.

“It’s scary,” Garner continued. “As a country, as a society, it feels completely out of control.”

The article allows the policeman to share at length — unquestioned and without consulting anyone with expertise — his own notions about brain chemistry and human sexual development.

Garner asserts that minors are “desensitized” by porn and develop an “increasing interest in shocking material after being exposed to violent pornography” and furthers the discredited War on Porn narrative that exposure to adult content is an addiction.

The article concludes with the regional policeman offering further theories about how adult content affects what he terms teenagers’ “erotic template.”

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