Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund Announces Awardees

Today, the End Violence Partnership and the Technology Coalition are awarding five organisations with grants to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). The funding will support these grantees to undertake groundbreaking research to inform both policy and practice to tackle online CSEA. 

“Investing‌ ‌in‌ ‌research‌ ‌matters.‌ ‌It‌ ‌drives‌ ‌strategic‌ ‌investment‌ ‌in‌ ‌solutions‌ ‌that‌ ‌work.”‌ ‌said‌ ‌Dr. Howard‌ ‌Taylor,‌ Executive‌ ‌Director‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌End‌ ‌Violence‌ ‌Partnership.‌ ‌“These‌ ‌five‌ ‌projects‌ through‌ ‌the‌ ‌Tech‌ ‌Coalition‌ ‌Safe‌ ‌Online‌ ‌Research‌ ‌Fund‌ ‌will‌ ‌generate actionable ‌evidence and learning to inform the essential efforts of tech industry partners to make children safe online."

The winning grantees of this funding round include: 

  • Justice and Care, which will implement research to help the world better understand online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines – and as a result, provide analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter and prevent this type of violence. 
  • Middlesex University, which will explore issues facing content moderators who scan online child sexual abuse material, and identify effective coping strategies currently used by content moderators to protect the mental health of those doing this work. 
  • Technological University Dublin, which will develop a deployable tool to reveal patterns of perpetrators and those they target, using state of the art machine learning (AI) techniques to advance global understanding of trends in perpetrator behaviour including grooming.
  • Universidad de los Andes, which will use artificial intelligence strategies to study the interactions between offenders of online child sexual exploitation and abuse and victims of such violence Latin America, one of the first Spanish-language tools of this nature. 
  • University of Kent, which will shed light on profiles and help-seeking behaviours of people at risk of perpetrating online sexual exploitation and abuse as well as explore the efficacy and impact of prevention interventions targeting people engaging with online abuse.

This announcement of the awards will mark the start to the work of the Research Fund grantees. Each grantee received between $120,000 to $200,000 to fund their research. This work continues to build on five years of earlier Safe Online investments in countries across the world. 

 “This research will accelerate our understanding of online child sexual exploitation and abuse, giving room for the creation of new policies, tech innovations, and protections that keep children safe online,” said Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Technology Coalition. 

This collaboration is part of the Technology Coalition’s Project Protect, which seeks to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse through technology innovation, collective action, research, knowledge sharing, and increased accountability. The Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund is an essential part of that process, supporting actionable research that will lead to critical innovation in how we protect children online.  

MEET THE GRANTEES 

Justice and Care

Understanding Traffickers and Pathways to Offending: Analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter, and prevent Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines 

Justice and Care is a United Kingdom-based non-governmental organisation that works with law enforcement officers to rescue victims of human trafficking, protect at-risk communities, and dismantle criminal networks. With support from the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund and in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM), Dublin City University and De La Salle University in the Philippines, Justice and Care is launching a study to help the world better understand online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines – and as a result, provide analysis and recommendations to better detect, deter and prevent this type of violence.   

To do so, Justice and Care will explore the profiles of those who perpetrate and facilitate online sexual exploitation of children, interviewing convicted offenders, key informants, and others. This analysis will fill a gap in global research into online child exploitation of children and shed light on the “supply-side” of such violence in a country known to be an epicenter of live-streamed child sexual abuse. Ultimately, this research will seek to inform practical strategies and enhance industry, prevention and law enforcement response to the issue.   

Middlesex University 

Invisible risks: Combating secondary trauma to safeguard children 

We know that online child sexual abuse material is highly damaging to children. But today, little primary research exists about the impact such material has on content moderators – individuals who are charged with constantly surveilling and removing traumatic images and videos of child sexual abuse.   

Through this project, researchers at Middlesex University, in collaboration with INHOPE and other sectors specific organisations, will explore and quantify the issues facing content moderators, specifically as it relates to their exposure of traumatic child sexual abuse material. They will also identify coping strategies currently used by content moderators, and highlight what works – and what does not work – for individuals and organisations that do this work. Results of this study will be used to develop a pilot intervention to support and protect the mental health of content moderators. 

Technological University Dublin

N-Light: An innovative application to uncover patterns of online child sexual exploitation through national helpline and hotline analysis of caseloads 

Through this project, Technological University Dublin will develop a deployable tool that reveals the patterns of adults perpetrating online child sexual abuse and the children who are affected by such violence. By using advanced artificial intelligence machine learning for text, the study will advance global understanding of trends in perpetrator behaviour (conduct, contact, content) – including grooming – and debunk strategies and tactics used to lure and coerce children into sexually exploitative acts.  

N-Light will be created in collaboration with two essential partner organisations, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Hotline.ie, the Irish national centre combatting illegal content online, specifically child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and activities relating to online child sexual exploitation (OCSE). Once finalized, N-Light will be tested by both partner organisations, with the intention to make it available to other hotlines in the INHOPE network and child agencies for their use, which would in turn lead to an enriched, more robust and representative data sample and analysis capacity. In addition, the data and insights will serve to better understand and conceptualise victim and perpetrator behaviour, patterns and activity, ultimately informing the further development of evidence-based solutions that would have the potential of transformative impact in tackling this heinous crime against children. 

Universidad de los Andes

Prevention of online child sexual exploitation and abuse in Latin America and evaluation of mitigation strategies with Artificial Intelligence 

Through support from the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund, Universidad de los Andes in partnership with Programa Aulas en Paz will use artificial intelligence strategies and tools to study the language and patterns of interactions between potential and current offenders of online child sexual exploitation and abuse and current or potential victims of such violence. At the same time, researchers will explore strategies designed to mitigate such abuse, such as parental mediation and industry-created and deployed protection tools.   

As a result, the study’s findings will be used to develop artificial intelligence tools to analyse interaction patterns between aggressors and victims of online sexual exploitation and abuse. These strategies, which will be designed for adaptability across contexts, will then be channeled to law enforcement agencies in the region.  The project will ensure applications for families, industries, and governments to better protect children online, including and especially for organisations that process information related to online child sexual abuse.   

University of Kent

Understanding and improving help-seeking by people at risk of perpetrating online child sexual exploitation and abuse

 The Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent is a group of leading psychologists working on offending behaviour, including sexual exploitation and abuse. In partnership with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and researchers based in South Africa, Mexico, the US and UK, this project will shed light on the psychological processes through which people at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse may instead seek professional support. In addition, the group will explore the efficacy and impact of prevention interventions targeting people engaging with online abuse. Overall, the project will ask a fundamental – and often overlooked – question: who seeks help for child sexual exploitation and abuse, and can we get more people to do so before committing a crime?   

This project will expand the group’s existing model of psychological predicators of help-seeking for people at risk of offending, and examine how to amplify the psychological factors that support such help-seeking behaviours. At the same time, the project will also look into the psychological barriers that prevent help-seeking, and explore ways to weaken those barriers in the digital sphere.  

ABOUT THE END VIOLENCE FUND & SAFE ONLINE 

End Violence is the world’s largest non-governmental funder dedicated to ending online CSEA. From our launch in 2016 until today, through our Safe Online area of work, we have invested $47 million into 55 projects that work at national, regional and global levels across 70 countries to prevent and respond to online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Part of our work involves stimulating collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the world. 

We regularly engage with major players in the technology field, ensuring that in their business decisions, children are considered upfront – not as an afterthought. As our fund investments gather more data, evidence and knowledge about the solutions that work, we can continue to advocate for children’s safety.

Learn more about our investments to keep children Safe Online

ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY COALITION & PROJECT PROTECT

The Technology Coalition was formed in 2006 when industry leaders came together to fight online CSEA. TC believes 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. It supports companies of all sizes, including those just establishing their child safety protocols and processes. Together, TC members 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 June 2020, the Technology Coalition (TC) announced Project Protect: a plan to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) through a renewed investment and ongoing commitment to work seeking to combat online CSEA in different ways. End Violence is the lead partner for the research arm of Project Protect.  

First Annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum

On June 15 & 16, 2021, the Technology Coalition (TC) held its first annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum and convened more than 120 attendees from 25 countries, representing the technology industry, civil society, government, and law enforcement. This seminal event marked one year since the launch of Project Protect, the TC’s five-part strategic framework for combating child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) online. 

During this dynamic two-day event, panels of cross-sector experts illuminated the unique challenges of a rapidly growing dimension of CSEA, “self generated indecent imagery featuring youth." Participants then collaborated in robust small groups to address these challenges and produce concrete deliverables. We invite you to read a summary of this event and its outcomes below.

Attendees also reviewed the TC’s revised set of visuals representing the “self-generated” issue. These graphics (below), revamped following the TC workshop held in April, were intended to capture the problem-space and outline a sampling of roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders. The TC expects these visuals to continue to evolve as both the issue and our collective approaches to it mature.

Full Workshop Summary

Self Generated Indecent Imagery Featuring Youth: Working Together for Maximum Impact

On April 28 & 29, 2021, the Technology Coalition assembled a multi-stakeholder group of experts to begin a collective dialogue about the growing problem of “self-generated indecent imagery featuring  youth” (“SGIIFY”). The workshop included some 50 participants from a cross-section of stakeholder groups from 12 countries, namely: representatives from victim/survivor advocacy, researchers,  governments, NGOs and hotlines, law enforcement, and tech companies. Participants convened virtually to share knowledge and explore approaches. We invite you to read the Workshop Summary below for a high-level overview of these discussions.

Following our previous workshop on "The Next Frontier of Reporting," this is the second in a series of events convened by the Technology Coalition to facilitate multistakeholder dialogues for the purpose of increasing our collaboration on protecting children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.

On June 15 and 16, the Technology Coalition will host the first annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF), a virtual global gathering to mark the one-year anniversary of Project Protect that will further explore the topic of “self-generated indecent imagery featuring  youth” (“SGIIFY”).

Full Workshop Summary

Discord, MEGA, Pinterest and TikTok join the Technology Coalition to fight online child sexual exploitation

Posted on: May 5, 2021

Eradicating online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) remains a major priority for technology businesses, policymakers and civil society organizations around the world. 

Our founders set up the Technology Coalition in 2006 in the belief that CSEA is a collective action problem. We can only eradicate it successfully by bringing together industry, government and civil society; collectively developing groundbreaking new technologies and funding cutting-edge research to create practical solutions; and sharing best practices to implement those solutions industry-wide—transparently and accountably.

Today, we’re delighted to announce that four more leading technology companies—Discord, MEGA, Pinterest and TikTok—have agreed to join the Technology Coalition. They join eighteen current members collaborating to develop rigorous, evidence-based approaches to tackle CSEA. With their involvement, we can scale their expertise tackling online CSEA across our membership, while also sharing the Coalition’s knowledge and experience about what works. 

Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Technology Coalition, said: “Our vision is to mobilize the entire tech industry to keep all children safe from online sexual exploitation and abuse. By bringing their strengths, expertise and unique perspectives, each new member takes us a step closer to that goal. Online child sexual exploitation is a complicated and challenging issue, and we need all hands working together to effectively address it and keep children safe. I’m delighted to work with our new members to protect vulnerable children online.”

Clint Smith, Chief Legal Officer at Discord, said: “At Discord, we’re on a mission to create space for everyone to find belonging. Since our inception we have been committed to achieving this by continuously investing in the safety of all users. Our partnership with the Tech Coalition is guided by our common belief that effectively combating online child sexual exploitation requires collaboration and collective action across the tech industry. Joining the Tech Coalition is one more investment we’re making to develop and share effective, evidence-based strategies for keeping young people safe online.”

Stephen Hall, Chief Compliance Officer at MEGA, said: “We appreciate the opportunity to join the Coalition. MEGA has always had zero tolerance to the storage and sharing of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). We bring an international perspective to the Coalition and look forward to contributing to, and learning from, the Coalition and its members.”

Sev Guardado, Head of Trust and Safety at Pinterest, said: “The Technology Coalition is driving collective industry action to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse. As a positive and inspirational corner of the internet, Pinterest has a zero tolerance policy and believes these efforts require industry-wide collaboration. We’re proud to join the coalition to work with key players in tech and keep our platform safe and inspiring.”

Tracy Elizabeth, Minor Safety Policy Lead at TikTok, said: “We're at our strongest when we work together, which is why we're proud to join the Technology Coalition. Through this membership, we hope to deepen our evidence-based approach to intervention and contribute our unique learnings from addressing child safety and exploitation. TikTok is also joining the board of the Technology Coalition along with a number of committees that aim to advance protections for children online and off and drive greater transparency of evolving threats to child safety.”

Since the launch of Project Protect—the technology industry’s most ambitious effort to date to tackle CSEA—we’ve made significant progress towards our goal to develop consistent approaches across the technology industry:

  • We’ve partnered with Thorn, the world’s leading developer of technology to defend children from online sexual exploitation, to invest $1M in child protection technology innovation. 
  • We’ve developed a fund alongside the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children to encourage research to improve product development and policy understanding to tackle CSEA effectively. The resulting Technology Coalition Safe Online Research Fund has received over 120 applications, and grants will be awarded in the coming months.
  • We’ve been working with member organizations to tackle the problem of abuse imagery. In March 2021, we convened over 100 experts from policy, industry, civil society and law enforcement from 23 different countries to develop improvements to help prevent the dissemination of abuse imagery on members’ platforms. We’ll shortly publish a paper presenting the results of a second workshop to address the challenges of self-generated indecent imagery featuring youth. 
  • We’ve launched rigorous new membership criteria to ensure members are willing to implement technical solutions, respect international policy frameworks set up to fight CSEA, and be held accountable for their efforts.

Next month, the Technology Coalition will be hosting its first annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum to mark the one-year anniversary of Project Protect and highlight the outputs and outcomes of our workshops on CSEA imagery.

If you or your organization would like to join the Technology Coalition or find out more about our work, please contact us here.

Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Imagery (CSEAI): The Next Frontier of Reporting

On 24 and 25 March 2021, the Technology Coalition hosted a two-day event to bring together over 100 policymakers, civil society, law enforcement and companies from 23 different countries to explore the next frontier of reporting Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Imagery (CSEAI), increase our understanding of current reporting structures, and jointly explore potential paths for improvement. We invite you to read the summary of this event attached below.

This is the first of a series of events convened by the Technology Coalition to facilitate multistakeholder dialogues for the purpose of increasing our collaboration on protecting children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.

On April 28 & 29, we will host the second event in this series,“Self-generated indecent imagery featuring youth: Working together for maximum impact.” This second workshop aims to explore and action this multi-faceted dimension of CSEAI.

Then, on June 15 and 16, the Technology coalition will host the first annual Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF), a virtual global gathering to mark the one-year anniversary of Project Protect that will highlight the outputs and outcomes of the two lead-up workshops.

Full Workshop Summary Paper

Technology Coalition Membership Criteria and Tiers

Membership Citeria

1. Business requirements

  • Members must be technology related companies and have at least one product or service that could reasonably be affected by child sexual exploitation.
  • Members must be committed to taking appropriate steps to mitigate such abuse as evidenced by the criteria below.
  • Membership will not be open to vendor companies whose main business is providing content moderation tooling and moderation services to other companies, but who do not host or provide access to content themselves

2. Commitments

Members must have a desire to combatting online CSEA and a desire to help expand the capacity of the tech industry to combat online CSEA.

3. Published standards

Members must prohibit child sexual exploitation and abuse material in their terms of service, community guidelines, or other publicly available policies or statements.

4. Reporting

Members must be able to receive reports of and take action, as appropriate, on illegal CSEA.

5. Technical solutions

Members must commit to helping further technological approaches to mitigating online CSEA.

6. Transparency

Members must support transparency and accountability in the fight against online CSEA.

7. Relevant Frameworks

Members must have a commitment to respect for human rights and children’s rights and must take steps to familiarize themselves with relevant international policy frameworks and codes of practice relating to online CSEA.

8. Partnership with civil society

Members must commit to engaging, individually or collectively, with civil society groups, including those who represent the voices of survivors, researchers, and legal, privacy and other relevant experts.

9. Commitment to engage

Members must commit to active membership, including participation in membership and committee meetings as appropriate, identify a lead representative, and commit to the timely payment of dues.

Membership Tiers

The Technology Coalition membership is a tiered system. Different tiers offer different opportunities to get involved with the governance of the Technology Coalition, with different levels of funding required. Those tiers are summarized below.

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To learn more about membership or the application process, please use the ‘Contact Us’ section of this website.

Copyright 2021 | The Technology Coalition

The Technology Coalition is funded by member companies and does not accept funding from any government agency or NCMEC.