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Telus backs away from selling porn

VANCOUVER- Telus Corp. is withdrawing from the business of providing adult content on cellular phones effective immediately, director of media relations Jim Johannsson said.

The company had registered and age-verified several thousand customers since January for the service that allows adult cellular phone customers to download nude photographic images to their phones for $3 each or nude video files for $4 each.

But after receiving several hundred customer complaints —most of them from Western Canada — and a number of service cancellations, Telus has decided to discontinue the service, Johannsson said. There will be no formal announcement of the decision.

“Some of our corporate customers, too, have called to try and understand the direction we were going,” he said.

Vancouver’s Catholic archdiocese on Friday told about 130 parishes and schools to cancel their contracts with Telus Mobility.

The church ramped up its fight against pornography with a 12-page special section in this week’s edition of The B.C. Catholic, a weekly newspaper published by the Vancouver archdiocese. The Feb. 19 edition includes a front page story about the church’s fight with Telus, an editorial that scolds Telus Mobility for “hitching its financial future to the abuse-ridden and pain-filled pornography industry.”

Nearly 90 per cent of cellular phones in use today are web-enabled, which means users can access sexually explicit material from the Internet, Johannsson explained. The Telus service provided images of partial or full nudity, but no sex acts or hardcore pornography.

“But (providing adult content)is not a business our customers want us to be in.

“There was a fundamental lack of awareness among the people who called or wrote with concerns that cellphones are Web-enabled devices,” Johannsson said. “Parents should take the same precautions about letting children use cellphones as they do with their home computers that are connected to the Internet.”

Archbishop Raymond Roussin said last week that Telus’s position that the technology that allows people to access pornography has been in circulation for years is “inadequate.” He asked Catholic schools and churches not to renew their contracts with Telus and to seek a pornography-free mobile phone service provider.

Johannsson said the cancellation of the adult content service is not just a matter of optics.

“We have taken to heart some of the concerns that our customers have given us,” he said.

Telus blocks illegal child pornography sites in co-operation with Cybertip.ca, a project that protects children from sexual exploitation sponsored by a consortium of Canadian Internet service providers

“Any other material on the Web, we are not allowed to block unless a judge orders it,” Johannsson said.

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