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  • Writer's pictureGrace Episcopal Church

MAKING THE INTERNET SAFER FOR CHILDREN

By Deacon Mary Delancey


As many of you know, earlier this month I was in Washington DC with almost 150 people from more than 40 states to join with International Justice Mission (IJM) and advocate for vulnerable children. We were there to confront an issue that many either are not aware of or find too difficult to address - Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC). I ask you to be willing to let your heart be broken for the sake of the innocent, and to take the time to learn about the issue and the very real action you can take to put an end to this evil.


We were in DC to lobby for the EARN IT Act, legislation that would provide incentives to tech companies to work to remove child pornography (more accurately called Child Sexual Abuse Material or CSAM) from the internet. And to prevent the material from being shared. There are many myths and misinformation about OSEC and questions about why this legislation is important. Below are two very important ones.


Myth: OSEC is primarily a problem in other countries and the US isn’t really involved.

Fact: Yes, countries in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, are the source of much CSAM. It is estimated that at any given time there are 750,000 child sex predators are online. The great majority of viewers of CSAM are from Western countries – UK, Australia, Canada and the US. In 2020, 34% of OSEC cases in the Philippines involved “customers” from the US and 52% of the money involved in the transactions came from the US. It has been found that the US hosts more child sexual abuse content than any other country in the world – 30% of all material. Recent studies have found that from 50-80% of those viewing this abuse online go on to abuse children in person. Many of the children abused are contacted through internet platforms.


Myth: Tech companies are already doing everything they can to protect children online – we don’t need a law to force them to do more.

Truth: Currently, US companies (unlike some other Western countries, are required to submit reports of CSAM that they know is on their platform. They are not obligated to proactively search for material. SnapChat is one of the few platforms that have a robust program for identifying this material. Meta is a major source of the 32 million (27+ million) reports to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In the same time period, Apple reported just over 200. 90% of the reports come from just 5 of the 1500 tech companies registered to make reports. Even when companies do report, there is no requirement for what information is to be reported, making it difficult for law enforcement to follow-up.


For more information about this crime, and what is being done and still needs to be done to end it, go to IJM’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of Children. Information about the EARN IT Act and why IJM supports it and we ask you to support it is here: IJM Supports the EARN IT Act. If you want to know more about how you can, and why you should, support this legislation, contact me at mary@graceocala.org and we’ll talk.


Two things you can do right now:

SUPPORT the passage of the EARN IT Act, a bipartisan bill that would incentivize tech companies to prioritize child protection on their platforms. I can help you contact your elected officials with the information they need to pass this legislation.


PRAY: That the children be saved and restored, the perpetrators hearts changed, and our legislators moved to do their part to make the internet safer for the most vulnerable. This is something we all can do.

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