WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tori Byers was shocked when she found it. The pornography belonged to someone close to her, which made the discovery harder to accept.

Looking for a way to help, she came across an ad that led to a Facebook page for the anti-porn movement "Porn Harms."

She's been regularly involved since.

Byers is one of more than 52,000 Facebook users connected to the "Pornography Harms" page. Morality in Media, the Washington, D.C.-based values group that runs "Porn Harms," launched the Facebook page in 2010 and attracted 12,000 followers in its first year. About 40,000 more have joined so far this year, tripling the group's audience. Other Facebook groups with similar goals, like the "Voices for Virtue" page run by Upward Reach, an Ogden-based group, have amassed thousands of followers as well through Facebook and other social networking.

It's a new tactic in the battle to fight the spread of pornography. Groups like Morality in Media are using social networking to advance their message by posting helpful material, like testimonials from people harmed by pornography, and encouraging followers to contact politicians and sign petitions to help fight pornography.

Byers often participates in discussions on the "Porn Harms" page by submitting material, which the group then posts.

She said the site also helps people who are not necessarily involved or who haven't experienced the effects of pornography.

"It would help them understand someone who is struggling," Byers said.

Dawn Hawkins, social media director for the D.C.-based Morality in Media, helped launch the social site for "Porn Harms." It has hosted live Internet seminars, called webinars, where people can watch and participate by either phone or chat. The topics of the seminars range from porn's effect on relationships to internet safety briefings that can help parents.

Unlike activity on other web pages, Internet users gather on social sites to network by establishing connections and communicating through messages and comments. Facebook pages, like the one used by Morality in Media, give users an opportunity to join causes, which they do by expressing support publicly through clicking a "like" button.

But does "liking" something on Facebook make much of a difference?

Matthew Kushin, an assistant professor of Communication at Utah Valley University, isn't so sure. Because clicking "like" is so easy, Kushin says organizations should evaluate if they are effectively reaching their audience on a social site. Groups should ask themselves whether they see real action from social media or if people are simply adding their name to a list.

But other experts say the simplicity is a strength rather than a downfall.

Jesse Stay, author of "I'm on Facebook...Now What???," said pages as big as "Porn Harms" tend to have up to 1,000 users who interact by commenting or posting on the site. The average Facebook user has 130 friends, which means the reach of the group's site would be potentially 130,000 people. A new subscriber instantly receives posts from that group. Once someone clicks "like," all of their friends see what they are supporting and are exposed to the same message, making the simple act of clicking the "like" icon an effective way to reach thousands.

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"I think that's the power of it," Stay said. "It's something so simple to do that brings so much return."

Hawkins believes there is a real response to the posts on the "Porn Harms" Facebook page. Recently, the group launched a petition to get NBC to stop airing "The Playboy Club," a show about the 1960s club owned by Hugh Hefner. Hawkins posted the petition on the Facebook page and instantly received hundreds of signatures, which were sent, along with individual messages against the show, to NBC executives, including the CEO Stephen Burke.

"Facebook gets the most activism," Hawkins said. "So, we spend a lot of time devoted to our social media presence."

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com. TWITTER: @joeyferguson