Senators demand info on tech firms' efforts to curb content depicting child exploitation

Senators demand info on tech firms' efforts to curb content depicting child exploitation
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is demanding information from 36 technology companies about their efforts to prevent the spread of material depicting child sexual abuse on their platforms.

“Technology companies have a vital and irreplaceable role in stemming this flood of child exploitation and abuse,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyOvernight Health Care: Trump becomes first sitting president to attend March for Life | Officials confirm second US case of coronavirus | Trump officials threaten California funding over abortion law Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Top health officials brief senators on coronavirus as infections spread MORE (R-Mo.), John CornynJohn CornynTrump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Nadler gets under GOP's skin Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (R-Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Trump defense team signals focus on Schiff Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (R-S.C.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Democrats urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency from chopping block Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on MORE (D-Hawaii) wrote in letters to the firms sent Tuesday.

“Online platforms cannot be a haven for child exploitation due to neglect and siloed efforts, and companies should be willing to collaborate with peers and NGOs to keep up with the threat.”

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The letters, sent to companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter, follow a series of reports in The New York Times detailing the staggering amount of content depicting child sexual exploitation shared online. Some 45 million online images and videos were flagged as child sexual abuse just last year, according to the newspaper.

Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter, and many of the others contacted by the lawmakers, have publicly released data about and strategies to combat child sexual abuse material.

For example, Facebook revealed earlier this month that it took action against 11.6 million posts, images or videos for depicting child sexual exploitation between July and September.

The senators asked the tech companies 17 questions, including how often automated processes are used to take down content, what efforts have been taken to avoid stifling law enforcement investigations with privacy rules and what steps are being implemented to combat grooming.

The companies were asked to respond by Dec. 6.