Coalition Builds Momentum in the Battle Against Online CSEA

Last June, the Tech Coalition launched Project Protect , an ambitious plan to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) through renewed investment and strategic commitment to our ongoing work.

Since then, we have instituted a bold program to further the ability of our members to combat online CSEA as well as the structure, partnerships, and projects required to drive this plan forward. Members have shared best practices for using technical tools to identify CSEA in video, combat CSEA in search, and produce highly actionable reports. We have also published new membership criteria and are working with over fifteen additional companies who have applied for membership to determine their eligibility. All the while, we’ve searched for the right leader to carry forward Project Protect with unique expertise and devotion.

Today, the Tech Coalition is proud to announce the appointment of Sean Litton as our Executive Director. After most recently serving as President of International Justice Mission (IJM), Sean brings decades of vital experience protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse, from both his operational work in the field and his leadership of a global organization dedicated to protecting vulnerable children.

While Sean only just assumed leadership of the Tech Coalition in January, he has already overseen a meaningful advancement in our implementation of Project Protect: the establishment of a multi-million dollar Research and Innovation Fund in union with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and Thorn.

In alliance with our existing partner, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (End Violence), the Tech Coalition has contributed $1M to launch a research fund . The Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund will provide grants of up to $250K for research that produces actionable insights and can impact product and policy development to advance the world’s understanding of online CSEA.

Together with End Violence, we have also formed an independent Advisory Group to help us develop a process for soliciting and awarding grants, disseminating research findings, and supporting knowledge-exchange activities to amplify the impact and uptake of the research. The Group includes world-leading experts with extensive backgrounds in conducting and applying research across a range of disciplines and settings, including leading academics Dr. Michael Seto and Professor Julia Davidson, and experts based around the world including from Safernet Brazil, WeProtect Global Alliance, IJM Philippines, and Thorn. With their guidance, we have issued the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund’s first Request for Proposals focused on funding research in several areas like deterrence, prevention, and novel and evolving threats. If you’re interested in submitting an application, the portal will remain open until April 11, 2021.

In addition, the Tech Coalition has 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. In collaboration with Thorn, teams across member companies will help develop technology to prevent, detect, remove, and report the creation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and share intelligence with industry partners at greater speeds and scale. In addition, we will allocate a portion of funds to provide scholarships to under-resourced companies to access SAFER , a key tool Thorn created in coordination with the Coalition and member organizations to enable companies to remove CSAM from their platforms and the internet.

On his appointment, Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Tech Coalition, said: “After more than two decades working in the field and at the global leadership level with International Justice Mission, I’ve learned that a coordinated multilateral approach is imperative to tackling the complex issue of child sexual exploitation and abuse. I’m deeply honored to join the Tech Coalition as Executive Director to carry forward Project Protect in partnership with world-renowned experts like Thorn and End Violence and leading technology companies in our mission to prevent and eradicate online CSEA.”

The current President of the Board of the Tech Coalition, Ken Villa , commented: “Following the launch of Project Protect in June, we are excited to welcome Sean as the Tech Coalition’s Executive Director. He has already hit the ground running and will play an important leadership role in driving the Coalition’s strategic plan forward. Sean’s extensive experience battling child sexual exploitation and abuse around the globe will be invaluable as we work with industry leaders like Thorn, End Violence, and WeProtect to tackle this issue.”

Commenting on the Tech Coalition Safe Online Research Fund, the Executive Director of End Violence, Dr. Howard Taylor, said: “This important partnership with the Tech Coalition will deliver actionable research to accelerate the technology industry’s capacity to detect, prevent, and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). These research insights will inform policy and product design for industry players and other stakeholders. This will contribute to the global effort to tackle online CSEA and it will complement the End Violence Partnership’s Safe Online investment portfolio protecting children online in more than 70 countries.”

Commenting on the new partnership, the VP of Industry Sector Strategy at Thorn, John Starr , added: "Thorn is committed to defending children from online sexual abuse. To meet our goal to eliminate child sexual abuse material from the Internet, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Tech Coalition to put child protection at the center of digital innovation. We look forward to continuing to develop tools that enable and empower the industry in the fight against child exploitation."

The Tech Coalition was founded on the belief that in the fight against online CSEA, sharing best practices and supporting technological innovation will create the biggest impact in our work - especially when we combine our efforts. Today, we are grateful to appoint a resolute leader and join forces with two trailblazers in the field of child protection, End Violence and Thorn, as we build momentum in the battle against CSEA.