International Justice Mission (IJM) welcomes the reintroduction of the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act) in U.S. Congress. This legislation, first introduced in March 2020, is designed to combat online child sexual exploitation, and unanimously passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 116th Congress. IJM is pleased to see the bill taken up again by the House and Senate in the 117th Congress.
IJM supports the EARN IT Act because it will provide best practices created by a congressionally appointed, multi-disciplinary commission of experts to guide the technology sector in proactively detecting, disrupting, and reporting all forms of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) on their platforms. Right now, implementation of online safety rules, tools, and systems is uneven across the industry, with no established standards or action. A recent survey of the technology industry revealed that despite evidence indicating increases in video and livestreamed child sexual abuse, advanced detection is only used by 30% and 22% of respondents, respectively.
IJM also supports reporting requirements to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline. Legislators rightly cite the recent and continuing sharp rise in CyberTipline reports to NCMEC as a cause for legislative action. IJM similarly supports the END Child Exploitation Act and applauds the provision in this legislation that will extend the period of time that technology companies are required to preserve information from reports they submit to NCMEC from 90 to 180 days. While the EARN IT Act would affect U.S.-based companies, vulnerable children around the world would benefit from the protective measures of this legislation. This effort is worthy and just, particularly because of how many Americans use online technologies to exploit children both domestically and internationally. [A 2019 study into the nature and scale of OSEC in the Philippines showed 34% of demand-side offenders were U.S. based. This study was led by IJM, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office), the Government of the Philippines and many other stakeholders, under the U.S.–Philippines Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership.]
IJM has 25 years of experience partnering with authorities to protect vulnerable populations from violence. Globally, IJM and partner organizations have supported and trained government officials that have rescued more than 66,000 victims of violence and exploitation, while supporting prosecutions and survivor aftercare. In the Philippines, in partnership with the Government of the Philippines and foreign law enforcement, IJM has supported the safeguarding of nearly 900 children victimized by, or at serious risk of, trafficking into online sexual exploitation. In most cases, local traffickers broadcast—through live streaming video or the production of new child sexual exploitation materials—to foreign sex offenders the sexual abuse and exploitation of victims, 51% of whom were 12 years old or younger at the time of law enforcement intervention.
Protecting children from online sexual exploitation is an urgent task. “The scale of child sexual exploitation and abuse online is increasing” and its “sustained growth is outstripping our global capacity to respond,” according to the 2021 Global Threat Assessment from the WeProtect Global Alliance, an international coalition of governments, businesses and civil society organizations. The U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice to members in September 2021 due to a 17% increase in suspicious activity reports (SARs) for online sexual exploitation of children, including the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). EUROPOL warns that “livestreaming of child sexual abuse increased and became even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This echoes evidence from INTERPOL that livestreaming for payment is increasing as demand surged during the pandemic as an alternative to ‘in-person’ abuse.
One thing is abundantly clear: while criminals choose to livestream and share the rape and sexual abuse of young children online, those victimized children have no choice at all. It is time, therefore, for a victim-centered approach that protects children from abuse and prioritizes the privacy of online sexual exploitation victims.
“Groundbreaking artificial intelligence tools and other detection methods exist to protect children from this violent harm and persistent trauma,” said John Tanagho, Executive Director of IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children. “Deploying these or similar tools will make online communities safer, improve detection of abuse, and support efforts of law enforcement around the world to identify and protect children suffering ongoing sexual abuse for a trafficker’s profit and a predator’s pleasure. But this will happen only if tech companies prioritize detection, disruption, and reporting of such abuse as an essential business function.”
IJM applauds the re-introduction of this important legislation and will work with industry, government, and non-government organizations to expose, neutralize, and deter the point of first abuse and exploitation—when live streamed abuse is happening and when new videos and images are first created.
Please join IJM in urging Congress to pass the EARN IT Act now by sending a message to your legislators today: https://www.ijm.org/earn-it.
About International Justice Mission:
International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities in 24 program offices in 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and other forms of abuse against people who are poor. IJM works to rescue and restore victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and help strengthen public justice systems. Learn more at www.IJM.org.
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