To Our Global Community,

2023 has been an important year in our shared mission and progress to keep children and young people safe. Together with our industry members, and with your continued collaboration and engagement, we continue to move the tech industry towards a digital world where children are free to play, learn, and explore without fear of harm.

As we recap and reflect further below, we achieved significant strides to innovate technology that disrupts harm, advanced shared understandings of emerging harms and approaches to online child safety, renewed our support for independent academic research, and continued to uphold our commitment to transparency.

Throughout the year, we were pleased to welcome six new members to the Tech Coalition and convened our members in-person and virtually to advance our collaborative efforts. In June, we brought together our global community to address the alarming rise in cases of financial sextortion against young people. In September, we announced additional funding to boost four independent research initiatives. In November, we launched Lantern, the groundbreaking program to strengthen how participating companies combat attempts to violate their platforms’ child safety policies with Discord, Google, Mega, Meta, Quora, Roblox, Snap, and Twitch. And this week, we hosted an industry briefing with 27 of our members and key U.S. stakeholders on generative AI and child safety that culminated with several new multi-stakeholder efforts to help industry adapt approaches and systems to address this new threat, as it has with past changes in technology.

We thank you for your partnership and dedication throughout the years.

New Tech Coalition Members in 2023

We were thrilled to welcome the newest Tech Coalition members who joined us this year: GIPHY, Grindr, MatchGroup, OpenAI, Patreon, and Sony Interactive Entertainment, increasing our membership to 36 companies committed to our work.

We also welcomed Zoom and Discord as new members to the Tech Coalition’s Board of Directors. We are grateful for the continued service of Verizon, currently serving as the Board’s Chair, Amazon, Roblox, TikTok, Verizon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Yubo on the Board. We look forward to our continued work in 2024.

Addressing Emerging Risks and Trends for Online Child Safety 

Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Combating Financial Sextortion

In June, the Tech Coalition and our member companies gathered in Washington, D.C. to host our biennial global multi-stakeholder forum in partnership with WeProtect Global Alliance. We brought together over 150 professionals in-person from 16 countries with representatives from law enforcement, child advocacy and trust and safety. The purpose was to address the growing global trend of online financial sextortion of children. Over the two days, participants established a shared understanding of this urgent issue and collaborated on cross-sector solutions through brainstorming ideas and action plans. 

Check out our blog to learn more about how we did just that.

Developing Solutions to Address Generative AI Risks to Child Safety:

As generative AI develops and the child safety ecosystem evolves, Tech Coalition Members are building a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges, so they can continue to be proactive in their efforts to reduce risk, incorporate safety by design, and innovate solutions to help keep children safe.

In December, the Tech Coalition convened an industry briefing on the impact of generative AI on online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA). We brought together key U.S. stakeholders in the ecosystem to develop a shared understanding of the potential risks predatory actors pose to children through generative AI and the ways companies are currently addressing those threats, as well as to identify and initiate new opportunities for stakeholder collaboration. Representatives from 26 Tech Coalition member companies, including Adobe, Amazon, Discord, Google, Meta, Microsoft, NAVER Z, Niantic Labs, OpenAI, Pinterest, Snap Inc., TikTok, Verizon, VSCO, Yahoo, and Zoom, joined select child safety experts, advocates, and members of law enforcement.

The briefing culminated with several new multi-stakeholder efforts, among them including: 

  • Red teaming: The Tech Coalition, with input from the U.S. Department of Justice, will help companies explore ways to test for and mitigate OCSEA risks.
  • Information sharing: The Tech Coalition will advance utilizing the Lantern program to securely share information that supports robust safety evaluations and mitigation methods for generative AI CSAM and related OCSEA incidents.
  • Industry classification system: The Tech Coalition will review and update the Industry Classification System to address different types of AI-generated OCSEA.
  • Reporting: The Tech Coalition will work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help develop a process to efficiently and effectively refer cybertip reports of AI-generated OCSEA to NCMEC.

Our work to understand the impact of generative AI on OCSEA began earlier this year when we started bringing members together regularly to identify emerging challenges and share learnings. In addition, together with Thorn, we co-hosted a webinar to convene experts on the topic of understanding child safety risks with generative AI, and at the Crimes Against Children Conference we brought together industry to identify and address generative AI challenges. We look forward to continuing to facilitate discussions about OCSEA and the rapidly changing space of generative AI.

Watch the recorded webinar as we identify risks and develop solutions together here.

Read more about this week’s industry briefing here.

Advancing Technical Innovation

Lantern: The First Child Safety Cross-Platform Signal Sharing Program

In November, the Tech Coalition launched Lantern, the first cross-platform signal sharing program for companies to strengthen how they enforce their child safety policies. It was a meaningful day for us, having designed this program with our members and in line with important input from external experts over the last two years. Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) are pervasive threats that can cross various platforms and services. Two of the most pressing dangers today are inappropriate sexualized contact with a child, referred to as online grooming, and financial sextortion of young people. Because this activity often spans across platforms, any one company can only see a fragment of the harm facing a victim. To uncover the full picture and take proper action, companies need to work together. Lantern is a groundbreaking initiative that brings together technology companies to securely and responsibly share signals about activity and accounts that violate their policies against OCSEA. The program can enable the increase of prevention and detection capabilities; speed up identification of threats; build situational awareness of new predatory tactics; and strengthen reporting to authorities of criminal offenses. 

We have made a concerted effort to design a program that is effective at addressing OCSEA, and also legally, regulatory, and ethically compliant. We commissioned Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to conduct a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) to inform the development of Lantern and provide ongoing guidance as we iterate and enhance the program. 

To learn more about this program, see here.

And to read more about how we will continue to improve and scale the program with recommendations from BSR’s HRIA, see here.

New Technology to Help Keep Young People Safe Against Grooming

According to a recent report on grooming from Thorn, nearly half of all kids online (40%) have been approached by someone who they thought was attempting to “befriend and manipulate them.” Tech Coalition member companies have begun piloting an innovative machine learning model to detect attempts to groom a young person in text-based content. Classifiers are able to detect potential attempts in real time and prioritize these conversations for review by trust and safety professionals. We are encouraged by the results of the pilot in preventing harm against children and we are looking forward to continued developments. 

Read more about this important pilot program here.

To understand more about the state of online grooming and considerations for detection, response, and prevention see the Tech Coalition’s latest research here.

Second Annual Initiate: Tech Meet-Up and Hackathon

In October, we hosted our second annual Initiate: Tech Meet-Up and Hackathon in Seattle, Washington, at the AWS Skills Center. We gathered over 30 engineers from 13 member companies and our partner, Thorn, to participate in two days of collaborative working sessions, where we brainstormed and identified the next technical advances in how to combat OCSEA and ways to advance technology that helps keep kids safe. 

With technology and child safety experts together in one room, we focused on developing new methods and enhancing existing technical solutions to identify and combat OCSEA. As a result, we achieved greater adoption of hashing technologies to detect known CSAM in video and image form, improved the performance of the technology we’ve rolled out with Thorn to detect attempts to groom young people online, and we continue to develop our information-sharing initiatives with members, including Lantern.

Read more about our annual tech meet-up and hackathon here.

Convening our Members

In addition to our annual Hackathon and Tech Meet-Up, Initiate, we regularly convene our members virtually and in-person alongside impactful conferences and Summits focused on trust and safety and keeping young people safe. This year, we hosted 11 webinars for members and we were grateful to convene many of the technical and child experts from our industry members for important time together in-person.

Tech Track at Crimes Against Children Conference

In August, we hosted the Tech Track at the Crimes Against Children’s Conference in Dallas, Texas, convening our industry members and partners for strategic conversations around ensuring a safe online environment for children amidst the shifting tech landscape. This year, our sessions focused on topics that are top of mind for industry including identifying risks to child safety from generative AI and next steps in combating financial sextortion after our Multi-Stakeholder Forum on this urgent issue in June. 

Developing Industry Resources through Information and Knowledge Sharing

New Resource for Assessing OCSEA Harms in Product Development

Throughout the year, the Tech Coalition and our industry members collaborate on knowledge sharing to deliver high-impact and actionable information that strengthens how industry disrupts and prevents online child sexual exploitation and abuse. In November, we published the latest resource from our shared efforts with members to help companies assess risks of platform features and products as it relates to child safety.

While we also have members-only resources, the Tech Coalition shares this resource publicly with the broader tech industry and our global community. Making this information available to all helps strengthen child safety efforts more broadly and inform other sectors of the important work tech is doing to help keep young people safe online.

Advancing Independent Research

Safe Online Research Event and Renewed Funding for 2024

In September, in partnership with Google and Safe Online, we hosted our research fund convening in San Francisco, bringing together 13 member companies and 11 research grantees for a day of discussion on the latest research findings and how these insights turn into action for tech companies as they strengthen and enhance their child safety program.

At the Safe Online event we announced a funding boost of $500,000 for the The Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund to support four independent grantees to take their research to the next level. Read more on the innovative projects that have been awarded the boost funding here.

We are now pleased to share that the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund will enter its fourth year in 2024 with an additional $500,000 of new funding to enhance the impact of the Fund’s 13 research projects. We look forward to continuing this important partnership with Safe Online in 2024. 

Read more about our work together next here.

Upholding Our Commitment to Advancing Industry Transparency

In May 2023, we published our 2022 Annual Report which includes our annual Transparency Report, highlighting how we work with our diverse membership of tech companies to strengthen our efforts to combat online harms against children and young people. You can read the full report here.

As of the end of 2022, our efforts showed:

  • 55% of our members have partially or fully aligned with Trust: Voluntary Framework for Industry Transparency. The Tech Coalition released this framework for transparency reporting in June 2022, following a consultation process with civil society and government. The Trust Framework provides flexible guidance to tech companies seeking to build trust and demonstrate accountability to expand the conversation on combating online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA).
  • 22 member companies submit supplemental reports to better support law enforcement in their efforts to investigate and prosecute offenses, an increase from 18 member companies in 2021.
  • Launch of the Tech Coalition’s Video Hash Interoperability Alpha Project, giving companies the opportunity to leverage hashes previously in a form incompatible with their technical solutions, expanding the capabilities to remove child sexual abuse materials for participating member companies
  • A collective increase in the adoption of video and image hashing tools across the leading types of hashing technologies.

We look forward to what more we’ll showcase in our 2023 Annual Report, coming next year.

Thank You

It is only by working together, as industry, and with the experts from other sectors who share our mission, that we make progress in keeping young people safe. This Coalition and our global community continues to prove that meaningful and important advances are possible. I am proud of the team at the Tech Coalition working so closely with our members and partners to accomplish all that we achieved this year, thank you. I look forward to what more we’ll do together in 2024.

With gratitude, 

Sean Litton