Lantern is a critically needed program to effectively address cross-platform attempts of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA), including grooming and sextortion. It enables secure and responsible signal sharing among participating companies to enhance enforcement of their respective child safety policies and help make the internet a safer place for kids and teens. Through this program, the Tech Coalition and participating companies will strengthen how they protect and uphold the rights of children and young people as they seek to learn, share, and connect online. The goals of the program are as follows:
Increase detection to take action on predatory accounts and prevent the further spread of child sexual abuse material (CSAM)
Build greater situational awareness to understand the scale and severity of specific problems within OCSEA
Speed up identification of changes in predatory tactics, such as behavioral trends and coded terminology (keywords, new acronyms, and more)
Increase and strengthen reports from participating companies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and appropriate Law Enforcement because signals from Lantern help identify illegal activity
“The Lantern Program helps fulfill the responsibility companies have to address adverse human rights impacts with which they are already associated and will significantly increase company leverage to do this effectively. This HRIA identifies the human rights risks associated with the Lantern Program and makes recommendations for how those risks should be addressed. However, it is essential to emphasize the severity of the existing adverse human rights impacts that the Lantern Program is addressing related to OCSEA.” - Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) in their Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Tech Coalition’s Lantern Program
This groundbreaking initiative delivers an effective way for companies to collaborate against predatory actors evading detection across different digital platforms and services. Building a thoughtful cross-platform procedure is hard and it takes time. Over the last two years, we have been developing Lantern with several Tech Coalition members and have made a concerted effort to design a program that is effective at addressing OCSEA, and also legally, regulatory, and ethically compliant. As we announce Lantern, we do so intending to review and update the program over time based on lessons learned with participants, analysis on the impact we make to combat CSEA, and continued input from external stakeholders.
We designed a stakeholder engagement strategy and commissioned Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to conduct a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) to both inform how we develop Lantern and provide ongoing guidance as we iterate and enhance the program.
The Tech Coalition is committed to responsible management of Lantern with clear guidelines and agreements with participating tech companies, ongoing due diligence to upholding human rights, and transparency with our partners and stakeholders. At the beginning of 2023, we identified a diverse set of stakeholders with expertise in child safety, digital rights, trust and safety, and advocacy for marginalized communities to engage about our initial plans and designs for Lantern. At the same time, we commissioned the HRIA.
Through this work, the Tech Coalition sought diverse perspectives and expertise on how Lantern can address the current challenges to combating CSEA online, strategies for mitigating identified risks, and understanding the broad range of impacts to human rights.
We are motivated and dedicated to pursuing the potential opportunities identified and equally committed to developing thoughtful mitigation strategies to effectively address the potential risks.
Recommendations from the Human Rights Impact Assessment
Keeping young people safe online, so that they can connect, share, and learn free from harm requires us to pursue and uphold both the right to privacy and the right to safety - Lantern is our latest demonstration of how we do that work. The HRIA provides the Tech Coalition and Lantern participating companies with recommendations that are intended to supplement and enhance the Tech Coalition’s existing efforts to uphold fundamental human rights, particularly when certain rights are in tension with one another. We have already implemented a series of improvements and enhancements that align with BSR’s recommendations, and we will continue to explore and pursue the additional recommendations over the coming months and years as we seek to scale and update the program responsibly and effectively. Specifically, of the 19 HRIA recommendations, the Tech Coalition has already implemented 9 and is currently pursuing or investigating 10 of the recommendations. This work is designed to be iterative, enabling us to continue to review findings while conducting ongoing human rights due diligence.
In response to the assessment, we have organized the recommendations into four areas of current and ongoing work in line with how we’re approaching the overall management of Lantern, tracking which of BSR’s recommendations we’ve already implemented and how we’ll plan to pursue and consider others in the future.
Quality Assurance and Management of Signals in Lantern:
The Tech Coalition has designed and implemented a robust series of policies and procedures for what signals can be included in Lantern. This includes retention limits on how long various types of signals remain in the database and a process for the Tech Coalition and participating companies to regularly review signals against Lantern’s inclusion criteria to ensure compliance. Over time, this quality assurance process will allow us to study the effectiveness of different types of signals for detecting attempts to violate child safety policies, understand trends in signals shared - including the volume of signals in different languages - and consider iterations to our inclusion criteria for signals.
As part of our ongoing stakeholder engagement strategy for Lantern, we will also continue to explore whether third party audits or trusted research access could be possible within applicable privacy law, and designed to effectively improve Lantern.
Supporting and Managing Participation in Lantern:
The Tech Coalition seeks to scale Lantern and grow the number of participating companies responsibly to increase our collective ability to detect and combat attempts of online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Ensuring participating companies understand and follow the program’s commitments and guidelines is essential to how we effectively address threats to children and teens, as well as measure and understand our impact in addressing the problem over time.
Ongoing Stakeholder Engagement:
A vital step we took early in the development of Lantern was to establish a strategy to engage a range of experts and practitioners from across sectors and perspectives for their input on the program. It was important that we considered all the opportunities for how this program can protect young people online, and how we must develop strategies to avoid and address potential risks to human rights.
Going forward, we will take a multifaceted approach to continuing to receive this critical insight and input including invitations to collaborate on specific adjustments and iterations to the program, ongoing dialogues that allow us to share findings and key trends in adversarial tactics without revealing this knowledge to predatory actors, as well as publicly available updates and transparency reporting.
Transparency and Accountability:
Meaningful transparency reporting drives greater accountability and consistency. We are committed to including Lantern in the Tech Coalition’s annual transparency report and providing participating companies with recommendations on how to incorporate their participation in the program into their own transparency reporting. These efforts are important to continuing to help stakeholders, as well as prospective participants, understand how Lantern works and our progress in how we are helping to keep young people safe online.
Through transparency we can share lessons learned, best practices, and ongoing assessments on the state of the problem of OCSEA. This includes findings and achievements from our efforts in quality assurance, managing attempts by governments to access information in Lantern, and working with program participants. This approach to transparency will complement our ongoing stakeholder engagement strategy to responsibly share trends in predatory tactics that support others in the child safety field.