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MEDIA RELEASE: IJM Australia Welcomes New eSafety Commissioner’s Report

15 December 2022

Australia’s leading anti-slavery organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia, has welcomed the eSafety Commissioner’s latest report revealing gaps in the practices of major tech companies leaving children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation (OSEC).  

IJM Australia was disappointed to see big companies like Apple, Meta and Microsoft failing to protect users on their platforms, especially with the spike in livestreamed abuse during the pandemic. 

The report released today represents the findings of the eSafety Commissioner, who in August issued notices to seven tech companies, requiring them to respond to questions on what they are doing to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation.  

“I would like to congratulate the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman-Grant, and the entire eSafety team on this report,” IJM Australia CEO, Steve Baird said.  

“The findings of the report are confronting – it’s staggering to me that companies with immense resources and capabilities can take up to two days to respond to reports of child sexual abuse on their platforms.  

“In the case of one company, it can take up to 19 days if a re-review is required.   

“To compound the issue, some companies don’t have an in-platform function to report the activity, you have to exit the platform and find a separate email address placed obscurely on their website.  

“This is just not good enough, but we are heartened to see the eSafety Commissioner take steps towards transparency, and ultimately towards holding these companies accountable.”  

Effective tools for detecting online child sexual abuse exist and the industry should be continually innovating to develop new and better ways to prevent and disrupt child abuse online, especially livestreamed abuse.  

For example, online detection tool PhotoDNA was co-created in 2009 by Microsoft and Dartmouth University to find previously identified child sexual abuse material, with an error rate of just one in 50 billion. Despite this, Microsoft doesn’t use this technology to scan content stored on OneDrive, and Apple only uses it for iCloud Mail, not for any other features on iCloud.  

Further, no action is being taken to detect livestreamed child sexual abuse in video streams or calls on Microsoft’s Skype and Teams, or Apple’s Facetime, despite the existence of technology that can detect and disrupt what are essentially live crime scenes happening on tech platforms. 

Mr Baird said that transparency is the first step towards accountability and called for tech companies to use the tools available and continue innovating to combat the scourge of online sexual abuse of children.  

“Australia has the world’s first eSafety Commissioner and we believe these findings, along with the Commissioner’s powers under the Online Safety Act, are a vital part of stamping out online sexual abuse materials and protecting children from harm,” Mr Baird said.  

“But we need tech companies to also do their bit and come to the table with solutions that will effectively address the horrible crime of online child sexual abuse.”  

For more information, and to read a copy of the eSafety Commissioner’s report, click here. Learn about IJM’s fintech for good initiative here

MEDIA:   Nick Trainor 0407 078 138 

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