New RAINN-Supported Legislation Incentivizes Tech Companies to Address Online Child Sexual Exploitation

A bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), and Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) has introduced the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act (EARN IT Act). This bill will incentivize technology companies to proactively search and remove child sexual abuse imagery on their platforms.

The distribution of child sexual abuse images and video has reached crisis proportions globally. In 2021, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 29.3 million CyberTipline reports containing over 84.9 million images, videos, and other content related to suspected child sexual exploitation. Many of these images and videos depict the actual rape of children. These images are produced, collected, and redistributed by individuals with a sexual interest in children. Each time a child’s abuse images are recirculated because of failures to detect known images and remove them, that child’s privacy is violated. Imagine having the worst moments of your personal life being shared by millions of offenders around the world.

Despite the proliferation of these crimes scene images, online child sexual exploitation has not received a consistent and forceful response from the technology industry. Forty-eight percent of all child sexual abuse material (CSAM) flagged for removal by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection had previously been reported to the electronic service provider (ESP). This implies that technology companies are allowing the same images to be redistributed over and over on their networks. It also is indicative that they are not building robust libraries of known CSAM hashes and using these hashes to filter for known CSAM, which tools like PhotoDNA make it easy to do.

Technology companies have the power to detect, remove, and stop the distribution of these illegal images. Until now, they have had no incentive to do so because there have not been any consequences for inaction.

This bill does not impact sex workers, it exclusively targets sexually abusive images of children. Children can never be sex workers; they are child sex abuse victims.

The EARN IT Act will:

• Update federal statutes to use the term CSAM instead of child pornography. The term child pornography fails to describe the true nature of the videos and images and undermines the seriousness of the abuse. ​

• Remove immunity for social media and technology companies that knowingly facilitate or profit from the distribution of CSAM on their platforms.

• Establish a commission of survivors, technology representatives, and government stakeholders to create recommendations and voluntary best practices for tech companies to respond to the global pandemic of online sexual exploitation of children.

"Child sexual abuse material is crime scene evidence; it is documentation of a child's abuse and torture,” said RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. “We should be doing everything possible to not only remove these images from the internet but bring the producers and distributors of these images to justice. The EARN IT Act is a critical step and we thank Sen. Blumenthal, Sen. Graham, Rep. Garcia, and Rep. Wagner for their leadership."

 

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