The 3rd and 4th of September saw global tech leaders meet in London to continue the vital work of the WeProtect global initiative. Representatives from companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook presented techniques to an international audience on how to guard their own servers, systems, networks and platforms to prevent sexual abuse images appearing in search results, detect and remove videos of children being abused, and collaborate with internet hotlines such as the IWF and INHOPE.
The WeProtect initiative was created by the UK Government in April 2014 to bring together those who create global technology products, services and solutions to address the growing problem of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. In December 2014, more than 20 leading technology companies signed up to the WePROTECT Global Statements of Action alongside more than 50 countries, law enforcement agencies, and international charities. The delegates signed up to concrete actions and unveiled ground-breaking technological initiatives to identify and rescue victims, apprehend perpetrators, and remove child abuse images from the internet.
At the two day summit in London this September, Internet Safety Minister Baroness Joanna Shields opened the WePROTECT event, recognising the "unsung heroes" of the WeProtect technology initiative and praising the "transformative power of industry and government coming together" to combat online abuse and exploitation.
With over 60 delegates from countries including China, Russia, the EU and UK, the two day event was well attended with informative and engaging presentations and lively discussion. techUK attended and supported the event, and identified 5 key issues to take away from the event:
- The scale of this global issue. Johnny Gwynne, Director of NCA CEOP Command, provided a briefing of the current threat of online child sexual exploitation at the event. Presenting statistics released by the UN Special Rapporteur and the FBI, the sheer scale of the challenge was illustrated - an estimated 750,000 predators are connected to the internet across the world, and there are an estimated 600,000 victims the UK, and an estimated 750,000 males at risk in the UK.
- The positive actions that industry has taken, and committed to taking further, whilst sharing best practice across the global tech industry. At this event companies presented technology solutions and techniques to ensure that child sexual abuse images and videos are not available in their search results and company servers. For example the IWF has recently started to provide digital fingerprints of images – known as 'hashes' – to industry partners in order to speed up the identification and removal of child sexual abuse content on their platforms and services worldwide, and prevent people from sharing or uploading these images.
- The UK has developed one of the best models in the world for Government, Industry and wider stakeholders working in partnership such as the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), Internet Matters, the Internet Watch Foundation, the Safer Internet Centre, and launched the WeProtect initiative. These successful models need to be communicated globally as examples of best practice of the "transformative power of industry and government coming together" to tackle this issue.
- The balance of child protection and legitimate privacy concerns. Countries across the world have different regulation and legislation which impact upon child online safety activities. Greater understanding of the different legal models, and accompanying legislative certainty, is essential to enable the global initiative going forward.
- The response to this complex social problem cannot just be a technological response, it needs to be a much broader social response. Technical tools play a crucial role in supporting a safe internet environment, however the ultimate objective should be to work together to build in children the confidence, resilience and capabilities to ensure a positive, safe and secure online experience.
Hosted by the UK and UAE Governments, the next global summit will take place in Abu Dhabi in November 2015 where the work will continue. At this Summit it is expected that countries, companies and NGOs will be asked to agree to transform WeProtect into a sustained initiative with a mandate to help its members tackle the issue of child online exploitation.
If members would like the official event summary and slides, or you are interested in getting involved in techUK's Child Online Safety work, please contact Skye MacLeod.