Social media companies slammed for child abuse response
WhatsApp bans 300,000 accounts a month for child exploitation violations, but does not share details about the users it bans with stablemates Facebook or Instagram, even though abusers use multiple accounts.
Neither Skype, Microsoft Teams nor Facetime takes any action to detect child exploitation material in live video streams. Inman Grant said the gold standard in using technology to track images was Microsoft’s XBox, but questioned why it wasn’t as active on other platforms.
“The hubris we got was really gobsmacking … (social media companies) admitted they were enabling crime of the worst possible nature.”
Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner
Inman-Grant said neither company justified their failure to act. “It’s shocking to me that none of the video conferencing platforms use any kind of tracking technology when we know that live streaming child sexual abuse is a growing crime,” she said.
“What this really shows us – especially with Apple’s latest announcement – is that they’re not just turning a blind eye to crime scenes, they’ve effectively created a pedophile paradise where they can store photos without detection.
“The hubris we got in some of the responses was really funny. [This activity] is criminal in almost every country in the world. They admitted that they knowingly enabled crime scenes of the worst possible kind on their platforms.”
Professor Hany Farid, one of the inventors of PhotoDNA, which identifies and removes images of child exploitation, described the reactions as predictable and disappointing. “The technology sector has not responded to this crisis with the urgency or resources that I think it should,” he said.
“I am still baffled as to why they are not responding more aggressively to these horrific crimes against children. So-called privacy-focused groups talk about the importance of privacy, seemingly unaware that when we talk about tracking [child sexual abuse material]we are talking about privacy — the privacy of the young victims.”
Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said children need support online as well as offline. “As part of the review of the Privacy Act, we have recommended that all organizations handle personal information fairly and reasonably, which will ensure that they consider the impact of their information handling activities on children,” she said.
A Microsoft spokesperson said bad actors are becoming more sophisticated and “we continue to challenge ourselves to adapt”, adding that companies, communities and governments must continue to work together.
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