A word of warning to parents of girls — the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says 78 percent of victims of online child sexual exploitation are girls. In 2017, NCMEC got more than 10 million reports of suspected child exploitation.
Parents of boys aren’t in the clear though — 14 percent of victims are boys, but a bipartisan bill that became law the day before the government shutdown began aims to fight that. Senators John Cornyn and Dianne Feinstein joined forces to sponsor the CyberTipline Modernization Act.
Wednesday, Senator Cornyn stopped at Facebook’s Austin office to meet leaders from Facebook, Google and Microsoft — and law enforcement. “I just want to say thanks to the people who are on the front lines in this fight and I’m glad we were able to do something that provides them additional authority,” the senator said.
“The most stunning thing to me when I came here was just the sheer volume and depravity of the child abuse,” said John Bash, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, who was part of the round table discussion.
Child sexual exploitation is not limited to websites like Backpage.com, and it includes online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet, according to NCMEC’s website.
Now, the law gives social media companies guidance on what they can do. “It’s really about removing this behavior from our platforms so that it is a safe place for children,” said Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Head of Global Security.
When a tech company submits a tip to the NCMEC’s CyberTipline website, it’s prioritized by danger to the child. From there — it goes to law enforcement, at the federal, state or local level. Here in Austin, that’s where police come in. APD Assistant chief Ely Reyes also had a seat at the round table. “From our side, what we really have to do is identify who this person is, and then get the subpoenas and the search warrants,” he said.
There are no easy answers, but the law gives tech companies and law enforcement better tools. If you see something suspicious online, you can report it at NCMEC’s CyberTipline.
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