With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous news reports have talked about a spike in the cases of online child abuse. No doubt, child exploitation is a problem across social media, messaging services, cloud services as well as gaming platforms. Now, Facebook has joined Google, Microsoft and 15 other tech companies to announce the formation of “Project Protect: A plan to combat online child sexual abuse”.
“Project Protect brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own – child exploitation and abuse. Facebook is proud to help lead this initiative that we hope will lead to real changes that keep children safe,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO.
In order to fight this sexual abuse and protect kids online, Antigone Davis, Facebook Global Head of Safety, said, the social-networking giant uses “sophisticated technology and behavioural signals not only to prevent, detect and remove images and videos that exploit children, but also to detect and prevent grooming, or potentially inappropriate interactions between a minor and an adult. And we use this technology across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. But any industry-wide problem requires solutions broader than just one company – we need a robust international effort to combat this problem.”
In an official blog post, Facebook revealed that Project Protect will focus on five major areas:
- A multi-million dollar innovation
In order to support the cross-industry approach, Project Protect will accelerating the development and usage of ground-breaking technology powered by a multi-million dollar innovation fund
- Create a holistic approach
Project Protect will convene tech companies, governments and civil society to undertake collective action to tackle this issue of online child abuse
- Independent research
Funding research with the End Violence Against Children Partnership to advance our collective understanding of the experiences and patterns of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, and learn from effective efforts to prevent, deter and combat it
- Information, expertise and knowledge sharing
Continue to facilitate high-impact information, Project Protect will felicitate expertise and knowledge sharing among companies to help prevent and disrupt child sexual exploitation and abuse online
- Transparency and accountability
Increasing accountability and consistency across the industry through meaningful reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse content across member platforms and services. This will be done in conjunction with WePROTECT Global Alliance.
After recently hosting its fifth child safety hackathon, Facebook committed to help fund the Internet Watch Foundation’s initiative for young people to confidentially report self-generated sexual images of minors. The Mark Zuckerberg-led social networking platform has also taken steps across our apps to make the broader internet safer for children. According to Facebook, “This includes running PhotoDNA on links shared on all our apps from other Internet sites and their associated content to detect known child exploitation housed elsewhere on the Internet.”
Stating that Facebook continues to innovate and use best-in-class technology to prevent abuse, the blog revealed that last month the social-networking giant had introduced a new safety feature in Messenger that provides tips for spotting suspicious activity, encourages people under the age of 18 to be cautious when interacting with an adult they may not know, and empowers them to block or ignore someone when something doesn’t seem right.
Do let us know your views on Project Protect in the comments section below.
(Image credit: Unsplash)
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