Technology created this monster, only technology can take it down | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

There are many benefits to the technology we all use today, including social networks and other online platforms. Adults and children use the internet to learn, play, grow and connect. But for all their benefits, online spaces also have become havens for online child sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse material, sextortion, cyberbullying and online hate.

In 2022 alone, over 87 million images and videos of child sexual abuse were reported to the CyberTipline operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This represents a 47 percent increase from 2020. And with the swift rise of new technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, opportunities for perpetrators to harm children have only expanded.

For three decades, we have given technology companies free rein to police themselves and take voluntary action on this issue. They have not done enough — and many companies have simply turned a blind eye to this crisis.

Currently, the only legal obligation for technology companies in the U.S. is to report child sexual abuse material to the CyberTipline when they are made aware of it. According to NCMEC, in 2022, while over 1,500 companies had registered to use the CyberTipline, only about 230 companies actually sent in at least one report. Worse, over half the reports received in 2022 were not “actionable,” meaning they lacked the necessary information for law enforcement to intervene and remove children from harmful situations. According to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, tech companies are also failing children with slow responses to requests to remove this material from their platforms.

This is because there are no measures to hold companies accountable when they promote or facilitate child exploitation. Take the case of Cornell Johnson, a perpetrator from Sen. Durbin’s home state of Illinois. He sexually exploited 17 victims, ranging in age from four to 17 years old, across eight states. And he used Facebook to do it, creating multiple profiles where he posed as a woman to lure in his victims. He ultimately was caught and held accountable for his crimes. But due to a federal law shielding tech companies from liability, his victims couldn’t hold Facebook accountable for its role in their abuse.

The current voluntary programs to promote online child safety have not prompted widescale industry change. The “Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” were designed to establish a number of best practices for the tech industry to prevent and address online child sexual exploitation. But there isn’t meaningful evidence that the signatories to these Principles, as a whole, have made significant changes to protect children from online sexual exploitation.    

Congress has also failed to respond to this crisis. Comprehensive legislation regulating online spaces in the U.S. is long overdue. Which is why, earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Sen. Durbin chairs, unanimously passed the bipartisan STOP CSAM Act. This bill would end the unchecked proliferation of child sexual abuse material, support survivors, and demand accountability and transparency from online platforms. The bill is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

In the meantime, we have seen overwhelming support from the public. Last month, leading child protection nonprofit ChildFund International launched the #TakeItDown campaign to build public and legislative support to pressure tech companies to voluntarily search for and take down child sexual abuse material from their platforms. The campaign is designed to educate overwhelmed parents about the problem and explain why parents are not solely responsible for a child’s safety online.

While tech companies would like us all to believe otherwise, the campaign instead highlights technology’s role in creating environments and tools that have led to the explosion of child sexual abuse material online. The campaign gives parents a simple, one-click action to tell members of Congress that they support the immediate regulation of tech. And this message is resonating — the campaign has seen overwhelming responses from parents and survivors alike voicing their support.

The time to finally regulate tech is now.

Our allies are already taking action. We cannot allow the United States to fall behind and continue to be a safe haven for the distribution of child sexual abuse material. We need to take the lead on protecting children online now.

To parents, we urge you to visit to send a message to leaders in Congress to finally and definitively act against child sexual abuse material online and pass Sen. Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act now.

To members of Congress, we ask you to join us in standing up to Big Tech and protect our children by passing the STOP CSAM Act now. Together we must #TakeItDown.

Dick Durbin is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate majority whip. Isam Ghanim is the president and CEO of ChildFund International.

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