The Technology Coalition Takes the Next Step in Efforts to Combat Online Child Sexual Exploitation

The group detailed Project Protect

The Technology Coalition was formed 15 years ago The Technology Coalition

The Technology Coalition unveiled Project Protect, its plan to prevent and eradicate online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The group was formed 15 years ago, and its current members are Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Cloudflare, Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, GoDaddy, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Roblox, Snapchat, Twitter, Verizon Media, VSCO, Wattpad and Yubo.

The group committed to:

  • Execute a strategic five-pillar plan (details below) to reinforce its cross-industry approach to combating online child sexual exploitation and abuse, putting in place the necessary structure, membership models and staffing.
  • Establish a multimillion-dollar research and innovation fund to build technological tools.
  • Publish an annual progress report.
  • Create an annual forum bringing together experts from industry, governments and civil society to share best practices.

The five pillars of action are:

  1. Tech innovation: Investing in the development and deployment of technology to support its cross-industry approach, along with determining priority projects and plans for the aforementioned research and innovation fund.
  2. Collective action: The Technology Coalition will serve as the industry reference group for the WeProtect Global Alliance, driving collaboration via the largest international alliance focused on ending online child sexual exploitation. It will also sponsor the annual forum mentioned above, as well as periodic events to support knowledge sharing and collective action.
  3. Independent research: The group will fund research to advance understanding of experiences and patterns, working with End Violence Against Children to collaborate with relevant experts and distribute funding. The group wrote, “The research will be conducted and analyzed independent of the Technology Coalition and its members. It will include academic, applied and longitudinal research, as well as pilot studies on topics like the evolving threat landscape, the efficacy of outreach, deterrence and support interventions, ways to improve reports and how to build the capacity and resilience of content reviewers and others.”
  4. Information and knowledge sharing: The Technology Coalition pledged to continue facilitating the sharing of high-impact information, expertise and knowledge across the industry, creating and expanding systems and processes to do so. Looking ahead, the group is eyeing the development of rapid response protocols and mechanisms for sharing leads on new abuse vectors, along with good practice models.
  5. Transparency and accountability: The group will share collective insights through meaningful reporting of online child sexual exploitation and abuse “that goes beyond reporting numbers to give insights into the ways in which CSEA is identified, the range of content types, advances in detection and reporting and the evolving threat landscape.”

Facebook global head of safety Antigone Davis said in a Newsroom post, “Child exploitation is a problem across the internet, and it’s our collective responsibility—from social media and messaging services to cloud services and gaming platforms, as well as device makers and internet service providers—to fight this abuse and protect kids online. At Facebook, we use sophisticated technology and behavioral signals not only to prevent, detect and remove images and videos that exploit children, but also to detect and prevent grooming, or potentially inappropriate interactions between a minor and an adult. And we use this technology across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. But any industrywide problem requires solutions broader than just one company—we need a robust international effort to combat this problem.”

The Technology Coalition also shared quotes from some of its partners:

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg: “Project Protect brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own—child exploitation and abuse. Facebook is proud to help lead this initiative that we hope will lead to real changes that keep children safe.”

Google senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker: “The Tech Coalition’s ambitious new plan, funding and structure will help us share progress, learnings and cutting-edge tools throughout the digital ecosystem. No company can fight this problem alone—and the Tech Coalition’s new mandate will promote industry, civil society and government working together to protect children.”

Microsoft chief digital safety officer Courtney Gregoire: “We continuously invest in research and technology to help keep children safe online, but no single company is going to solve this issue on its own. That’s why it’s so important for the industry to come together through the Technology Coalition and work jointly on these renewed areas of focus.”

Twitter vp of trust and safety Del Harvey: “We welcome the renewed effort to collaborate with our peers in the Technology Coalition and are particularly encouraged by the industry commitment to an annual progress report. The pillars unveiled today are another critical step in driving collective action across industry, government and civil society. Twitter has a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual exploitation content. We publish figures every six months detailing how many accounts we remove and report—the vast majority of which are detected through our internal tools and technology.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.