Tech giants must act to stop sexual exploitation
According to data recently shared by the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), we are in the grips of a global child sexual exploitation epidemic. Much of the abuse is happening online and in plain sight. And Australian men are the third largest consumers of live, online child sexual abuse, according to the Australian Federal Police.
In our ongoing efforts to end sexual exploitation in all its forms and following our participation in the ACCCE’s annual child safety stakeholder workshop in September, we are pleased to announce our support for the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
The 11 Principles - aimed at driving collective action from industry to combat online child sexual exploitation - were developed by the Five Country Governments (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, and United States) in consultation with tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Snap and Roblox. They are backed by the WePROTECT Global Alliance, comprising 98 governments, 39 technology companies and 44 civil society organisations.
The Principles aim to prevent the distribution of child abuse material, child grooming and live-distance child abuse. We are particularly supportive of the agreement of signatories to act on ‘material that may not be illegal on its face, but with appropriate context and confirmation may be connected to child sexual exploitation and abuse’ (see Principle 8). We have documented numerous Instagram accounts where content falls below the legal threshold for child exploitation material, but where the broader context, which includes comments and predatory activity connected to the content, indicates that a child is being exploited.
(We are currently in positive discussions with Facebook’s executives to help the company address its predator problem. At the same time we are concerned by Facebook’s plan for end-to-end encryption across all its messaging platforms - a plan which if implemented will protect child predators and put children at increased risk of abuse and sexual exploitation. We believe end-to-end-encryption violates Facebook’s commitment to child safety and support the Five Countries Governments’ efforts to block it until adequate measures have been taken to ensure children are not placed at greater risk of harm. For more on the Five Countries' position see the International Statement: End-to-End Encryption and Public Safety signed by the Five Countries and the Governments of India and Japan.)
We commend the Australian Government for its leadership in global efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation, and the Department of Home Affairs’ contributions to the Voluntary Principles. We also recognise the important work of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the WePROTECT Global Alliance in protecting children from harm.
We acknowledge the need for a multi-faceted approach to addressing the global online child sexual exploitation problem which has broad support across governments, industry and advocacy groups like ourselves, and support the Principles to this end.
For more information about the Voluntary Principles, visit the WePROTECT website: https://www.weprotect.org/
The Principles are: