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 HawleyChinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' Trust in big government? Try civics education The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit MORE (R-Mo.), John CornynJohn CornynFive questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Lawmakers ask for briefings on Chinese targeting of coronavirus research MORE (R-Texas), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy do Americans worry about North Korea? Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races MORE (R-S.C.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoConservative group launches campaign accusing Democrats of hypocrisy on Kavanuagh, Biden Hillicon Valley: Commerce announces new Huawei restrictions | Russian meddling report round five | Google's ad business in spotlight Democratic senators urge Facebook to curb coronavirus misinformation in other languages 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.