Winnipeg, MB: Today, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre) is releasing a new child protection and rights framework titled, How we are Failing Children: Changing the Paradigm. It raises critical awareness about the ways industry has failed to effectively respond to the removal of child sexual abuse images online, along with proposing principles of action to put the protection and rights of children at the forefront.
It is undeniable that child sexual abuse imagery and its growing availability on the internet is a social epidemic substantially impacting the lives of children/survivors and those trying to protect them. To date, the removal of child sexual abuse images has been mostly left to the discretion of industry — those businesses that intersect with user generated content by way of the internet. Through operating Project Arachnid — our platform that detects child sexual abuse images on the clear and dark web and issues removal notices to industry — the Canadian Centre has become deeply concerned by the varying levels of commitment from industry to safeguarding children. The range of responses to notices from technology companies include reactive, resistant, non-compliant, to complicit. This lack of continuity and accountably has meant thousands of child sexual abuse images are being left online leading to the continued victimization of the children within this horrific content.
The Canadian Centre is leading the fight against this global social epidemic through Project Arachnid. Since its launch almost three years ago, Project Arachnid has detected over 13.5 million child sexual abuse images, and issued close to five million removal notices to content providers across the globe.
The evidence gleaned from Project Arachnid about the current issues with the removal of child sexual abuse images was the catalyst and guide for the creation of this framework and its principles for action:
- All material recorded in the course of a sexually abusive scenario/incident1 involving a child victim (identified and unidentified) will be actioned and removed immediately by industry.
- Nude or partially nude images/videos of children that have been made publicly available (typically stolen from unsecured social media accounts or surreptitiously taken images), AND are used in a sexualized context, will be actioned and removed immediately by industry.
- Images/videos of a child being physically abused, tortured, or restrained will be actioned and removed immediately by industry.
The need for the framework and for industry’s immediate action is underscored by a recent short survey launched by the Canadian Centre. Following the release of a November 2019, New York Times article, “Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way,” the Canadian Centre asked the public to weigh in on the responsibility industry bears in the removal of child sexual abuse images online. In just over three weeks, 2,000+ people completed the survey with these notable results:
- 83% felt a technology company who does not remove child sexual abuse imagery on its service companies should be criminally charged. Another 13% felt companies should be fined for failure to remove.
- 91% felt governments should pass laws that require technology companies to meet safety standards that include penalties for non-compliance.
- 94% felt that technology companies who are notified that stolen images of children are being reposted/shared in a sexual context on their services and platforms should be required by law to remove the stolen images.
For a summary and the full version of How we are Failing Children: Changing the Paradigm, visit protectchildren.ca/framework.
“Current policies for the removal of child sexual abuse images have been focused on determining and removing material deemed illegal under criminal law. In contrast, this framework is grounded in the best interests of the child, and the rights of children to dignity, privacy, and protection from harm. The undeniable truth is the rights of a victimized child will be continually violated as long as images of them being sexually harmed and abused are available on the internet.”
“From its earliest days, the internet has been weaponized against children around the world. From its earliest days, the technology sector has been negligent in ensuring that their platforms are not used to post child sexual abuse images. From its earliest days, the technology sector has profited while turning a blind eye to the horrific action of millions of their users around the world. This shameful behaviour must end. We must reclaim our online communities and hold the technology sector responsible for their actions and lack of action. With the emphasis where it belongs, on the young victims, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection is taking the long needed steps to reframe the problem and the solution.”
“It is clear this framework is victim centric which is so refreshing that I don’t even have words. For so long I have been told and believed that the removal of images was too big a task to tackle. So much of this framework validates so many feelings that have haunted and angered me over the years. This WILL make a difference!”
- 1 This includes incidents that appear to be self-generated. ↩