Tech heavyweights like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have come on board to back a five-fold plan to eradicate child sexual abuse on the Internet. This coalition, known as the Technology Coalition, was founded in 2006 with one agenda - to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) on the web. Technology Coalition partners with organisations like Unicef and other charities to provide funding and advice on how to implement child safety tools online.
“The world has changed since we first came together in 2006. Technology is more advanced, and there has been an explosion of new internet services, including mobile and online video streaming,” the group said in a statement, adding that “the number of people online — more than 4.5 billion in 2020 — has added to the challenge of keeping the internet a safe place. As a result, the technological tools for detecting and reporting CSEA content have become more sophisticated, but so too have the forms of abuse we seek to prevent and eradicate.”
The group have a five-pronged plan to tackle CSEA online and these include -
- Investing in innovative tech to tackle CSEA material on the web.
- Annual forums and events with governments, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to raise awareness about CSEA.
- Fund independent research on trends around CSEA and measures to curb it.
- Create new systems and develop new ones to effectively share information and threats across the industry.
- Share insights on how CSEA is being reported and create a process for firms to benchmark their progress.
The Technology Coalition has pledged to invest millions into research and innovation to build new tech and publish annual reports on its progress.
The group is working with WePROTECT Global Alliance, which is an organisation founded by tech entrepreneur Joanna Shields, and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Technology Coalition has backed 11 principles that have been put forward by the Five Eyes alliance, that includes the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, earlier this year to prevent the spread of online child sex abuse.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg called this plan, titled Project Protect, as something that “brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own”.
While many countries, like the UK, have introduced new laws to crack down on harmful content online including child CSEA and terrorism, tech companies are under pressure to make sure they have fool-proof systems in place that can identify and remove abusive content.
The risk of child sexual abuse spreading online has peaked over the Covid-19 lockdown. UK’s Internet Watch Foundation revealed that there have been 8.8 million attempts to access videos and pictures of children suffering sexual abuse over the last few months.
Now, platforms like Facebook and YouTube have mechanisms in place to tag and trace abusive content that violate their site guidelines, however, these are not foolproof. Tech firms have also often clashed with law enforcement officials about the use of encryption in online messaging services, including Facebook’s plan to encrypt messages across WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. Encryption, while it is great for security, will hinder efforts to track down offenders.
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