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Sharing strategies to hold tech companies accountable

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Photo by Thomas Park from Unsplash

Online child sexual abuse is on the front pages of newspapers, getting attention from regulators and national legislatures, and on the minds of parents as children are online more often these days, due to the pandemic. The movement to hold tech accountable to prevent online abuse has been growing, with parents and youth becoming more engaged, and at the forefront of the movement.

As part of UNICEF’s inaugural Global Forum for Children and Youth, Oak Foundation President Douglas Griffiths joined of WeProtect Global Alliance, ParentsTogether Action and 5Rights Foundation in an online webinar titled “Online Harms to Children & The Movement to Keep Kids Safe”.

During the session, which was moderated by Iain Drennan, executive director of WeProtect Global Alliance, panellists shared how children’s rights can be respected in the digital world: rights that protect them from commercial exploitation, offer the highest standards in wellbeing and education, protect them from violence and harm, and give them privacy.  

“The digital space increases children’s exposures to platforms that can spread millions of child sexual abuse images worldwide and enables bullying,” said Douglas Griffiths in his opening speech. “All of this can negatively impact children’s mental health and sense of self. While the funders are responsible, tech firms are also complicit.  Like every actor in society, they share a duty to keep children safe. The tech industry today is failing our children and should be held accountable.”

Baroness Kidron, founder and chair of 5Rights Foundation, which works to make systemic changes to the digital world so that it caters for children and young people, spoke on why we should be concerned about online harms like child sexual exploitation. “I think children have a right to a safe and secure childhood and in fact, those are embodied in the convention on the rights of the child,” she said. “We are seeing that the things that put children at risk online are very often not accidental, but baked into the system; they are putting virality, which equals profit, over child safety”.

Representing ParentsTogether, a community of more than 2.5 million parents that offers parenting news and resources, parent consultant Amanda Kloer called on tech companies to partnership with parents to create safe spaces for children online. “Preventing exploitation online needs to be a collaborative effort between parents and tech companies and parents that have a critical role to play in creating a safe online environment,” she said. “Parents have been bearing the brunt of the work to keep kids safe online and it is not ideal.”

Legislative steps are being taken within this field, such as with age-appropriate design code, a product of the U.K.’s Data Protection Act.  This was drawn upon within the webinar by Mason Rickard, youth advocate from 5Rights Foundation. He said, “Legislation is the key to protect children’s rights online. What needs to be included now is to make sure we enforce this code, and making sure services acknowledge it and respect it accordingly.”

You can re-watch the webinar on the video below:

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of safe digital environments, that works to support advocacy and regulation of the online space to protect children from sexual abuse.  

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