Our Continuing Work To Protect Children Online

Many in the U.S. would consider online access essential to their lives, but the internet has enabled traffickers and other predators to identify victims and distribute harmful and exploitative images. To counter these crimes, ECPAT-USA advocates for the EARN IT Act, legislation that would make the tech industry more accountable for dangerous and harmful material on the web. Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal introduced the EARN IT Act last year, and the bill incentivizes online platforms to take a bolder stance against the harmful proliferation of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

In recent weeks both Google and Apple have taken steps to address rampant CSAM on their platforms. This move signals a shift in policy priorities for big tech. A number of organizations in the anti-trafficking space have worked tirelessly to encourage tech companies to increase their child safety protocols. In response, Google announced that it was updating Chromebooks and Google Education products to make both safer for students in grades K-12. Additionally, beginning September 1, it will no longer allow “sugaring applications,” slang for a relationship that typically matches younger women with older men in exchange for money that often becomes exploitative, on its platforms. This ban is part of a larger update to Google’s inappropriate content policy that will implement new restrictions on sexual content.

Recently, Apple unveiled its plan to address child safety with four different security features: communication tools for parents to better understand online interactions, updates so messaging apps can better identify sensitive content, new ways to track CSAM in iCloud photos, and additional resources for parents and children about the potential dangers of exploitation. Apple indicates that users can expect to see these changes by the end of the year.

ECPAT-USA congratulates Google and Apple for taking meaningful steps to combat the online sexual exploitation of children. These critical policy changes are paramount to better protecting children across the country and abroad. It is our hope that other service providers follow their leadership by expanding their child safety measures and policies to counter CSAM.

Learn more about cases related to sex trafficking across the country that made headlines this month:

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