Friday, 06 March 2020 08:59

Five Eyes countries outline steps to tackle online child sex abuse Featured

US Attorney-General William Barr addressing the media at the Department of Justice on Thursday. US Attorney-General William Barr addressing the media at the Department of Justice on Thursday. Courtesy DoJ

The US Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security has, along with government ministers from the other Five Eyes countries - the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - published a list of what it calls voluntary principles to curb the scourge of online child sexual abuse.

Dubbed Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, the 11 principles were said to be have been drafted in consultation with a number of leading technology companies.

Representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter were present at an earlier meeting in London last July when the drafting of the principles was discussed.

The principles cover the following themes:

  • Prevent child sexual abuse material;
  • Target online grooming and preparatory behaviour;
  • Target livestreaming;
  • Prevent searches of child sexual abuse material from surfacing;
  • Adopt a specialised approach for children;
  • Consider victim/survivor-led mechanisms; and
  • Collaborate and respond to evolving threats.

US Attorney-General William Barr said the initiative was a historic one. "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," he said.

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Ministers from the Five Eyes countries at Thursday's launch of the voluntary principles to deter child sexual abuse. Courtesy DoJ

British Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “We cannot allow children to fall victim to predators who lurk in the shadows of the Web.

“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 co-operation 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 Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. “The Voluntary Principles will help industry optimise 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.”

New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister for Children Tracey Martin said: “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.

“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.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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