Department of Justice, Homeland Security and International Partners Announce Launch of Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
The Justice Department and Homeland Security, along with government counterparts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, announced today the publication of Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Developed in consultation with several leading technology companies, the 11 voluntary principles outline measures that companies in the technology industry can choose to implement to protect the children who use their platforms from sexual abuse online and to make their platforms more difficult for child sex offenders to exploit.
“Today marks a historic event,” said U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr. “For the first time, the Five Countries are collaborating with tech companies to protect children against online sexual exploitation. We hope the Voluntary Principles will spur collective action on the part of industry to stop one of the most horrendous crimes impacting some of the most vulnerable members of society.”
Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is a global crime that demands a global response. In an increasingly digital and borderless world, this crime has become easier to commit. Rapidly evolving technology and anonymizing tools allow offenders to continuously adapt and diversify their methods to conceal their activities from law enforcement. Not surprisingly, as a consequence, offenses are growing in scale and are becoming more extreme. These crimes have a devastating and lasting impact on victims and survivors.
“Nothing is of greater importance to the Trump Administration than ensuring the safety and security of Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us — our children,” said Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf. “Combating online child sexual exploitation is a top priority for the department. ICE Homeland Security Investigations has one in 10 agents investigating child sexual exploitation at any given time and that is why DHS released its first Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation. I am confident the Voluntary Principles will help us move forward our goal of creating a world where children can grow up free from sexual exploitation. The Voluntary Principles set new norms across the private sector, incorporating child safety throughout a company’s operations and properly considering the needs of victim-survivors.”
“We cannot allow children to fall victim to predators who lurk in the shadows of the web,” said UK Security Minister James Brokenshire. “Through global collaboration and with enhanced action from the Five Countries, law enforcement agencies and tech companies, we will ensure that children are protected online.”
“It is imperative that we keep children safe from online sexual exploitation and abuse, and we can only accomplish that if we work together with other countries and across sectors,” said Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. “Today’s release of the Voluntary Principles represents a huge step forward and is the result of innovative cooperation between Five Eyes partners and industry stakeholders. For Canada, the principles directly align with our efforts guided by our National Strategy and continues to fulfill our commitment of protecting children from sexual exploitation of any kind.”
“When it comes to tackling child abuse committed on online platforms and services, the digital industry has a vital role to play,” said Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. “The Voluntary Principles will help industry optimize these efforts; they reflect Governments’ expectations of digital industry, and are scalable and practical to implement across various platforms — from search engines to gaming services to social media networking sites.”
“Those who engage in online child sexual exploitation work to get around current barriers and regulations, despite the best efforts and hard work of the digital industry,” said New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister for Children Tracey Martin. “This is a global crime that demands a global response. Working with my colleagues from the Five Countries and the digital industry has ensured we have a set of principles that are robust, flexible, and most importantly, will create effective responses.”
At the Five Country Ministerial Digital Industry Roundtable on July 30, 2019 in London, the Five Country Ministers and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter agreed “tackling [the online child sexual abuse] epidemic requires an immediate upscaling of the global response to ensure that all children across the globe are protected…and that there is no safe space online for offenders to operate.” As a result, the Five Countries developed the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in consultation with the six companies and a broad range of experts from industry, civil society and academia.
The voluntary principles provide a common and consistent framework to guide the digital industry in its efforts to combat the proliferation of online child exploitation. The voluntary principles cover the following themes:
- Prevent child sexual abuse material;
- Target online grooming and preparatory behavior;
- Target livestreaming;
- Prevent searches of child sexual abuse material from surfacing;
- Adopt a specialized approach for children;
- Consider victim/survivor-led mechanisms; and
- Collaborate and respond to evolving threats.
These voluntary principles are built on existing industry efforts to combat these crimes. Some leading companies have dedicated significant resources to develop and deploy tools in the fight to protect children online and to detect, disrupt and identify offenders. Although significant progress has been made, there is much more to be done to strengthen existing efforts and enhance collective action.
These principles are intended to have sufficient flexibility to ensure effective implementation by industry actors. Some companies have already implemented measures similar to those outlined in these principles. Regardless of whether or not a company chooses to adopt these principles, existing laws and regulations in relevant jurisdictions continue to apply to all companies. Nothing in these principles overrides or is contrary to the need for companies to comply with the law.
The Five Country governments have partnered with the WePROTECT Global Alliance — an international body comprising government, industry and civil society members — to promote the Principles globally and drive collective industry action. The WePROTECT Global Alliance will also collate information about industry’s uptake of the Principles, connect subject matter experts to share best practices for implementation, and analyze the evolving threat environment to identify gaps in the global response. Five Country Governments will work closely with the WePROTECT Global Alliance to ensure the Principles remain fit-for-purpose for emerging trends and threats.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.