Tech companies turn a blind eye to child sexual abuse material

Victims live in fear knowing images of their abuse are circulating the web

"The first thing people need to understand is that any system that allows you to share photos and videos is absolutely infected with child sexual abuse."Alex Stamos, former chief of security at Facebook and Yahoo

A New York Times investigation has revealed companies like Twitter, Microsoft and Tumblr are doing the "minimum amount necessary" to track paedophiles and child sexual abuse material on the web. Despite having the technology to do so much more, some have resisted cooperating with law enforcement, leaving images to continue circulating and victims in a "living nightmare."

Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way

Though platforms bar child sexual abuse imagery on the web, criminals are exploiting gaps. Victims are caught in a living nightmare, confronting images again and again.

The two sisters live in fear of being recognized. One grew out her bangs and took to wearing hoodies. The other dyed her hair black. Both avoid looking the way they did as children.

Ten years ago, their father did the unthinkable: He posted explicit photos and videos on the internet of them, just 7 and 11 at the time. Many captured violent assaults in their Midwestern home, including him and another man drugging and raping the 7-year-old.

The men are now in prison, but in a cruel consequence of the digital era, their crimes are finding new audiences. The two sisters are among the first generation of child sexual abuse victims whose anguish has been preserved on the internet, seemingly forever.

Read more at the New York Times.

Australian Telcos must act

In an article for the ABC Melinda Tankard Reist wrote about the live streaming of child sexual abuse and Australian Telco's lack of cooperation with law enforcement:

There is also a push to hold ISPs to account. Internet Service Providers and Telcos - Telstra, Optus, iiNet and TPG - which provide the infrastructure for live-streaming abuse of children to be possible, need to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. Telcos are profiting from the global crime of child sexual abuse of the kind that happened to the children I've described.

Last week, the ABC's 7:30 revealed that, in the first 5 months of this year, there were 79 cases where telecommunications companies did not provide the online information such as subscriber records, IP addresses or mobile data required to make an arrest. This equated to a fifth of cases being pursued. That's 79 cases that cannot be investigated and prosecuted because ISPs consider the "privacy" of their (paying) customers to take precedence over the well-being of tortured children.

Read more: Why Are Australian Telcos and ISPs Enabling a Child Sexual Abuse Pandemic?

Melinda Tankard Reist appeared on behalf of Collective Shout for the Standing Committee on Social Issues for the Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and associated matters.

"We are particularly distressed about the transnational cyber trafficking of children for sexual exploitation. This is the use of digital platform to live stream acts of child sexual abuse performed on demand. We believe this issue, which has not been so far mentioned today, needs a greater attention. Any attempt to water down measures against this practice should be strongly resisted." - Melinda Tankard Reist

The full transcript of the hearing can be found here. Melinda's statement from page 60:

Hearing Transcript 4 November 2019 Inquiry into the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and associated matters.

Collective Shout's written submission to the Inquiry can be found here: 

Submission to the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (Provisions)

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Tips from e-safety

  • Report online grooming to local police.
  • Report individual comments/users to Instagram.
  • If a child is in immediate danger, call ‘000’.
  • Report individuals who are acting inappropriately with or towards a child, or seeking to engage a child in sexual activity to
  • For further information about online child sex exploitation see the Australian Federal Police website.

See also:

‘Sexy girl’: How Instagram allows the offering of young girls as fetishised flesh 

If Instagram can restrict diet products, they can stop child sexual exploitation 

A day of the girl on Instagram: posed, exposed and at risk

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