Monday, 16 October 2023
IJM Australia has welcomed an eSafety Commissioner report that revealed several of the world’s largest tech companies are failing to take adequate steps to detect and address online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
In February, the eSafety Commissioner issued legal notices to five tech companies under its world-leading transparency powers in Australia’s Online Safety Act, requiring X (formerly Twitter), Google, TikTok, Twitch and Discord to answer questions about measures they have in place to address child sexual and abuse exploitation materials on their platforms.
Tragically, since 2015, Australia has consistently ranked the third highest country in the world by both volume and value of transactions to procure the online sexual exploitation of children from the Philippines*.
IJM Australia CEO, Steve Baird, said, “I congratulate Australia’s eSafety Commissioner for taking these world-leading steps to hold big tech responsible for addressing the online safety of children on their platforms.
“IJM welcomes the eSafety Commissioner’s action against the two tech companies who have not complied with transparency notices issued to them relating to measures they have in place to address online child safety.”
Tech companies must be transparent and report how they detect and address child sexual exploitation and abuse, otherwise we will never understand the scale of this issue. They are the ones holding information about their own internal systems, processes and tools.
As the eSafety Commissioner’s report states “We can only know the true scale of the global problem if all online services use readily available technologies and human moderation to detect child sexual exploitation and abuse material, video livestreaming of abuse, grooming of children and sexual extortion.”
“I am appalled at the serious shortfalls in company practices uncovered in this report, including the failure of certain big tech companies to detect livestreamed child sexual abuse, despite existing technology,” Mr Baird said.
Every time a photo or video of child being sexually abused is accessed and distributed, that child is revictimised, compounding the trauma they experienced in-person.
“It is staggering to me that two of the world’s leading tech companies are not blocking links to known child sexual exploitation material, despite the availability of databases from expert organisations that identify links to such material and the websites that facilitate it,” Mr Baird said.
“Not only are known links to child sexual exploitation material not being taken down, but in some cases, tech companies are taking 13 hours to respond to user alerts,” Mr Baird said.
In September 2023, IJM released a world-first report, Scale of Harm**, which uncovered that half a million, or 1 in 100, children in the Philippines were subjected to online sexual exploitation just last year.
“The sad reality is that Australians are paying for the online sexual abuse of children, including in the Philippines, over popular tech platforms that are failing to comply with basic child safety standards under Australian law,” Mr Baird said.
The Scale of Harm report recommends ensuring tech companies use technology designed to prevent or disrupt livestreamed and other child sexual abuse images and videos on their platforms.
IJM has advocated for and applauded the world-leading powers of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, however, these powers cannot result in meaningful transparency and accountability unless tech companies treat these notices seriously and disclose the information asked for by the Commissioner.
“Transparency is the first step in big tech taking responsibility for the real-world child sexual abuse taking place on their platforms,” Mr Baird said.
IJM would endorse further follow-up actions as required by the eSafety Commissioner to ensure that tech companies operating in Australia meet their basic online safety reporting obligations.
MEDIA: Briony Camp | 0468 308 696 | [email protected]
* Anti-Money Laundering Council Report – Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in the Philippines An Evaluation Using STR Data (amlc.gov.ph) – Anti-Money Laundering Council report
** Scale of Harm Report – ijm.org.au/studies/
You might also be interested in…
“MEDIA RELEASE: Australia, US Back in Calls for Tech Company Data Provision to Protect Children”
Wednesday 31 January 2024 A US-Australian agreement came into force today, which raises the requirements of service providers holding electronic data for the purpose of countering serious crime including the online sexual exploitation of children. The agreement strengthens international cooperation by requiring more timely access by law enforcement to data held by electronic service providers
“MEDIA RELEASE: New Research Sheds Light on Australian Demand for Child Sexual Abuse Online”
Tuesday 19 December 2023 New research released by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) today sheds light on the prevalence of Australians accessing child sexual abuse material online. The study, ‘Prevalence of viewing online child sexual abuse material among Australian adults’, surveyed over 13,000 Australian adults, with 0.8 percent of participants disclosing they had intentionally
“MEDIA RELEASE: World Leading Tech Codes Lift Bar on Enforcement and Protection”
Friday 15 December 2023 International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia welcomes the commencement of the eSafety Commissioner’s new mandatory tech industry codes to tackle online child sexual abuse material from tomorrow. From 16 December, the eSafety Commissioner’s new tech industry codes will be enforceable, allowing the Australian regulator to investigate and ensure compliance of these codes
“MEDIA RELEASE: Progress on Federal Anti-slavery Commissioner Sends Strong Signal”
Thursday 30 November 2023 International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia applauds progress on the establishment of an Australian Anti-Slavery Commissioner, with the introduction of amendments to the Modern Slavery Act 2018 tabled by the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus KC MP, in federal Parliament today. Following advocacy by IJM Australia, the Albanese Government committed $8 million over four