#minorsextrafficking | Facebook reports majority of child sex abuse images in 2020, data shows | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

Facebook reported more than 20 million sex abuse images in 2020 — which accounts for 93% of the total images reported around the world, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC].

The trend isn’t new either. Facebook also accounted for more than 15 million cyber tips out of more than 16 million in 2019. Overall, NCMEC saw a 28% increase in cyber tips in 2020 compared to 2019.

The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame, according to NCMEC. As children were stuck inside during lockdowns and using technology more for school and other activities, they became sitting ducks for those looking to exploit them.

Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

“Online enticement can happen to any child using the internet,” Executive Director of NCMEC’s Exploited Children Division Lindsey Olson said in a blog post. “Offenders are very effective at grooming children, gaining their trust, isolating them from their parents and then exploiting them. Parents often think that it would ‘never’ happen to their child, but we know that is simply not true.”

Higher numbers could also be attributed to the amount of effort electronic service providers [ESP’s] — like Facebook — are putting toward identifying and removing abusive content from its platforms. Larger numbers could additionally reflect the fact that more and more people are using social media every year, NCMEC reported.

Facebook has shared its own views on the company’s effort to remove child sex abuse images from its various platforms, citing a “zero tolerance policy.”

But why is the number so high?

Users still must wonder how a company like Facebook routinely finds millions of images, while a search engine like Google finds slightly more than 500,000. Even more so, social media platforms like Snapchat, with of 145,000 reports, and Tik Tok with a slim 22,000, pale in comparison to Facebook’s sheer numbers.

Is Facebook a hotspot for child sex abuse images or are other companies simply under-reporting? There is no readily available data to answer the question in a satisfactory manner.

“The law just says if they become aware of it, then they have to report it. It doesn’t say how good of a job they have to do to look for it,” said Sgt. Wade Williams with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. He works within the Special Crimes Bureau and supervises internet crimes against children and human trafficking.

NCMEC 2020 Reports by Electronic Service Providers by Katherine Hamilton on Scribd

Williams’ assessment is 100% correct. 18 U.S. Code § 2258A states that ESP’s must take action and report to NCMEC as soon as they become aware of online child exploitation.

ESP’s could furthermore feel pressure from the 2017 amendment to section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934. That amendment, known as FOSTA, holds companies like Facebook personally responsible for any child sexual abuse material found on its platform.

“I think it was kind of a wakeup call for a lot of companies, and now they don’t have that immunity anymore,” Williams said. “A lot of big companies were facing a lot of criticism about how they were handling information.”

After FOSTA and an unrelated spike in the spread of violent content, companies like Facebook began hiring thousands of moderators in 2017 and 2018.

“So after they hired all these moderators, we saw a significant increase in reports from Facebook…” Williams said. His unit receives a large amount of cyber tips from NCMEC.

We should be concerned

Facebook is undoubtedly the largest power player in Big Tech, but the question of disproportion still stands.

While the company says most images they report are the same as previously reported content — 90% to be exact — that still leaves millions of images circulating. Millions more than every other ESP.

Whether Facebook is the Big Tech boogie man or is simply extremely proactive in its reporting, one thing is clear: the online sexual exploitation of children is growing exponentially, and it shows no signs of stopping.

“I haven’t met a kid yet that doesn’t have Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat,” Williams said. “…The most popular apps that kids are exploited on, whether it’s sex trafficking or child sexual imagery or that sort of thing are the apps that kids use, because the predators go where the kids are.”

Having open communication with children, monitoring their technology and keeping them safe from predators in real life are all proactive steps parents or guardians can take to prevent heinous crimes from occurring.

“Make it clear that it’s not that I don’t trust you, I just don’t trust the people out there. [Parents] should educate their kids. They don’t want the predator to be the first one to educate them,” Williams said.


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