By Lucia Bragg
Attorney General William Barr has announced new principles on online child exploitation prevention.
The 11 “Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” are co-announced by the rest of the “Five Eyes”—Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The recommendations create a baseline framework for companies that provide online services to deter use of the internet as a tool for sexually exploiting and abusing children.
The principles came out of a meeting in London last summer—the Five Country Ministerial Digital Industry Roundtable—between the five countries and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snapchat and Twitter. 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.
- Collaborate and respond to evolving threats.
The announcement came as bipartisan legislation—the “Earn It Act”—was introduced in Congress and pressures the industry to take aggressive steps to thwart child sexual exploitation on the web or risk losing some long-standing legal protections, known as Section 230.
This would spare certain tech companies from being held liable for dangerous content that goes viral on their platforms. The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to allow companies to “earn” their liability protection for violations of laws related to child sexual abuse material. The bill also:
- Establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention to recommend best practices related to identifying and reporting online child sexual exploitation.
- Allows for congressional review of best practices.
- Provides safe harbors–or flexibility–for liability.
- Provides recourse for survivors and tools for enforcement.
Lucia Bragg is a policy specialist with NCSL's State-Federal Relations Division.