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 HawleySenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Hillicon Valley: Pentagon pushes back on Amazon lawsuit | Lawmakers dismiss Chinese threat to US tech companies | YouTube unveils new anti-harassment policy | Agencies get annual IT grades Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE (R-Mo.), John CornynJohn CornynTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal On The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA MORE (R-Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump: 'I wouldn't mind' a long Senate impeachment process Poll finds Graham with just 2-point lead on Democratic challenger Hill editor-in-chief calls IG report 'a game-changer' MORE (R-S.C.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHorowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill Democrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump 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.