Google, Facebook and Microsoft back plan to tackle child sexual abuse

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A coalition of tech giants, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, backed a five-fold plan to “eradicate” child sexual abuse from the Internet.The group, known as the Technology Coalition, was founded in 2006 to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of children (CSEA) on the web. It partners with organizations like UNICEF and children’s charities, and provides funding and advice to technology platforms on the implementation of child safety tools.

“The world has changed since our first meeting in 2006,” the group said in a statement on Thursday. “The technology is more advanced and there has been an explosion of new Internet services, including mobile and online video streaming. ”

“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 to detect and report CSEA content have become more sophisticated, as have the forms of abuse that we seek to prevent and eliminate. ”

The Technology Coalition’s plan to tackle CSEA online has five main goals. The consortium said it would:• Invest in innovative technologies to tackle child sexual abuse content on the web.

• Hold an annual forum with governments, law enforcement and other stakeholders, as well as periodic events.

• Fund independent research on trends in online child exploitation and measures to prevent it.

• Create new systems and develop existing systems for sharing information and threats across the industry.

• Share ideas on reporting child sexual abuse and form a process for companies to assess their progress.

The alliance says it will invest millions of dollars in a research and innovation fund to build new technologies and publish annual reports on its progress in combating abusive content.

He works with international organizations, the WePROTECT Global Alliance – an organization founded by British tech entrepreneur Joanna Shields – and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. The news comes after the Technology Coalition supported 11 principles articulated by the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance – made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – more early this year to prevent the spread of child sexual abuse online.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said the plan, dubbed Project Protect, “brings together the brightest minds in the tech industry to tackle a serious problem that no company can solve alone. ”

In the UK, the government is introducing new legislation to tackle harmful content, including the exploitation of children and terrorism. But tech companies are also under global pressure to make sure they have robust systems to identify and eliminate toxic content.

There are concerns that the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have increased the risk of spreading child sexual abuse online. On May 20, the Internet Watch Foundation of the United Kingdom said there were 8.8 million attempts to access images and videos of child victims of sexual abuse during the lockdown. country.

Interior Minister Priti Patel welcomed the latest initiative from the Technology Coalition. She called child sexual abuse on the Internet “foul-smelling” and said “we must all work together to end this crime”.

“Myself and the Five Country partners have made it clear that tech companies need to work quickly and go further to address critical issues that could leave children vulnerable to online predators,” added Patel.

Encryption battle

It should be noted that large platforms like Facebook and YouTube already have mechanisms in place to tag and trace images and videos that violate their content guidelines and prevent them from being republished. But these are not foolproof.

Roblox, a popular online gaming platform, has been targeted by predators seeking to care for children. Roblox says it uses a combination of machine learning and human moderators to review and block child sexual abuse material before it downloads.

Tech companies have also clashed with key law enforcement officials on the use of encryption in online messaging services, including Facebook’s plan to integrate and encrypt messaging on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.

Such encryption means that only people who send and receive messages can see them. Officials such as US lawyer William Barr and FBI director Christopher Wray have argued that more encryption would hamper efforts to track down child sexual abuse perpetrators on the Internet.

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