Tech Giants Form Plan to Stamp Out Online Child Sexual Abuse

Tech company coalition announces Project Protect

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and a host of partners have formulated a five-point plan that could, eventually, help protect children around the world from online predators.

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An all-star group of technology companies is recommitting through the Technology Coalition to work together to combat online child sexual abuse. They unveiled their new plan, dubbed Project Protect this week.

Who are they: Fifteen years after Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and others partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to form The Technology Coalition to campaign against Child Exploitation on the Internet, the makeup of the group has, save Microsoft, largely changed as much as the battle they face. Now companies like Adobe, Amazon, Apple. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snapchat, Twitter, and Verizon have developed a new, perhaps more aggressive plan.

Why now: There are now 4.5 billion people (well over half the world's population) online, there are more services, and the threats to our children are exponentially higher.

What's the plan: It's multi-faceted.

Part 1: Establish a "Five Pillar" plan for developing a cross-industry approach to fighting online child abuse.

Part 2: Establish a new multi-million dollar research fund. (Part of the Tech Coalition's original plan 15 years ago included the members pledging $1 million to protect children online).

Part 3: Publishing an annual progress report.

Part 4: Establishing a forum for online child sexual abuse experts.

Getting to work: The five-part action plan focuses on tech innovation to build tools that can thwart online child exploitation. It also reinforces the need for collective action, independent research, information and knowledge sharing, and transparency and accountability.

The hurdles: At the same time that these companies are working together to combat online child sexual exploitation, many are wrestling with questions of openness and control. Does end-to-end encryption, which many of these tech giants are adopting to protect their users' privacy, help or hurt these efforts? Governments are looking at regulating and breaking up these companies. How might those actions impact these efforts?

Bottom line: It's good to see that these typical competitors recognize that online child abuse is an issue that rises above competitive advantage and requires the efforts of everyone to protect all of our children from those who might try to harm them online.


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