A Plan to Combat Online Child Sexual Abuse
Posted on: 10th June, 2020
Fifteen years ago, the Technology Coalition was formed when industry leaders came together to fight online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). We believed then, as we do now, that working together can have a greater impact in combating these horrific crimes than working alone.
The Technology Coalition brings together companies across the technology industry. We support companies of all sizes, including those just establishing their child safety protocols and processes. Together we tackle risks to online child safety through sharing best practices, mentorship, and coordinated efforts to improve the detection and reporting of sexual abuse imagery and other exploitative practices that put children at risk.
In the last decade, member companies have made progress with the development and roll-out of innovative technology to combat online CSEA. For example, PhotoDNA, a collaboration between Microsoft and Dartmouth, is used by organizations worldwide to detect, disrupt, and report millions of child sexual exploitation images. Google’s Content Safety API dramatically improves the ability of NGOs and other tech companies to review CSEA content at scale. Facebook’s open-source photo- and video-matching technology is enabling companies to help keep their services safe and allowing hash-sharing systems to communicate with each other, making the systems more powerful.
However, 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 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.
To ensure the next phase of our work addresses these new and emerging challenges most effectively, we have conducted an in-depth consultation with more than 40 experts on CSEA around the globe.
Following that consultation period, we are now announcing Project Protect: A plan to combat online child sexual abuse – a renewed investment and ongoing commitment to our work seeking to prevent and eradicate online CSEA.
Building on both our historic strengths and the expertise of global CSEA experts, through Project Protect the Technology Coalition will:
Execute a Strategic “Five Pillar” Plan to reinforce the cross-industry approach to combating CSEA, putting in place the structure, membership models, and staffing needed to support the Technology Coalition’s long term objectives.
Establish a multi-million dollar Research and Innovation Fund to build crucial technological tools needed to more effectively prevent and work to eradicate CSEA.
Commit to publishing an Annual Progress Report on industry efforts to combat CSEA.
Create an annual Forum for CSEA experts bringing together industry, governments, and civil society to share best practices and drive collective action.
These priorities reflect our view that in this evolving fight, technological innovation and sharing best practices will continue to create the biggest impact in our work seeking to prevent and eradicate CSEA – especially when we combine our efforts and share our progress.
For the first time, members of the industry are joined in the Coalition by world-leading, expert partners: The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (EVAC) and the WePROTECT Global Alliance. EVAC will be the lead partner for our research arm and the WePROTECT Global Alliance will work with us to drive collective action and share good practice and learning.
Our goal in the next phase of our work, guided by Project Protect, is for the Coalition to be a resource for the whole technology industry and all organizations dedicated to preventing and eradicating CSEA.
The Five Pillars of Action
1. Tech Innovation
- We will invest in accelerating the development and uptake of groundbreaking technology to support the cross-industry approach to thwarting child sexual exploitation and abuse online.
- We will determine the priority projects and plans for the Innovation Fund, and to secure its necessary technical, operational, and financial resources – including for the disbursement of funds.
2. Collective Action
- Combatting CSEA requires a whole-of-society approach in which everyone has a vital role. The Technology Coalition will help to drive collective action and serve as the industry reference group for the WePROTECT Global Alliance (WPGA), enabling the technology industry to drive collaboration through the largest and most diverse international alliance focused on ending online child sexual exploitation.
- We will sponsor an annual multi-stakeholder forum for our members to engage with global stakeholders sharing in the fight against CSEA – including governments, law enforcement, civil society, research centers, and those directly supporting children and families like hotlines, first responders, social workers, educators, and beyond.
- We will hold periodic events and convening that support the sharing of knowledge, and drive towards collective action that disrupts CSEA.
3. Independent Research
- We will fund research to advance our understanding of the experiences and patterns of online CSEA and learn from effective efforts to prevent, deter, and combat it.
- We will work with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children Partnership (EVAC) to facilitate collaboration with relevant experts – including on the disbursement of financial resources.
- The research will be conducted and analyzed independent of the Technology Coalition and its members. It will include academic, applied, and longitudinal research as well as pilot studies on topics like the evolving threat landscape, the efficacy of outreach, deterrence and support interventions, ways to improve reports, and how to build the capacity and resilience of content reviewers and others.
- Priority will be given to research that leads to actionable insights, which can be utilized by practitioners both within and outside of industry.
4. Information & Knowledge Sharing
- We will continue to facilitate high-impact information, expertise, and knowledge sharing across the industry to disrupt and help prevent online CSEA.
- We will create and expand robust systems and processes for information and threat sharing related to exploitative or predatory behavior to thwart the use of online platforms to facilitate online CSEA.
- Our work in the coming years will likely include the development of rapid response protocols and mechanisms for sharing leads on new abuse vectors, while continuing to provide mentorship to newer companies or to companies building new functionality, as well as the development of good practice models.
5. Transparency and Accountability
- We will drive greater accountability and consistency across industry by sharing collective insights through meaningful reporting of online CSEA and abuse material across member platforms and services.
- We will provide meaningful and actionable information that goes beyond reporting numbers to give insights into the ways in which CSEA is identified, the range of content types, advances in detection and reporting, and the evolving threat landscape.
- We will develop a process for industry to benchmark progress and actions taken, including the development of a maturity model for newer companies, inspired by the recent release of the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, international safety and privacy-by-design efforts, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Working closely with the WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online, we will promote good practice about how our members are making progress in the fight against CSEA, and share learnings.
To ensure our success in the next phase, we are focusing on putting in place the structure, membership models, and staffing needed to drive this strategic plan forward. In addition, we will formalize our strategic partnerships, identify priority projects within each pillar, and outline the components of our annual progress report, with reference to the CSEA voluntary principles. As the Technology Coalition enters a new phase, we are looking forward with renewed determination. Thanks to all of our members and expert partners for their work to date, as we strengthen our efforts to prevent and eradicate the online abuse of children.