Surge in Online Videos of Child Sexual Abuse

by Frank E. Lamothe, III

The New York Times reports, “Tech Companies Detect a Surge in Online Videos of Child Sexual Abuse.” In 2019, there were more videos of abuse reported than photos of abuse.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has been designated by the federal government as a clearinghouse for reports of this type of content and for working with law enforcement. The number of Facebook reported photos and videos increased by more than 50% last year to 60 million reports, 85% of the total reported by 164 tech companies. A single report usually includes multiple videos and images.

Because Facebook sent 85% of the total reports of illegal online videos and images in 2019 to the National Center, it appears to dominate as the platform most used for this content, particularly its Messenger app. Because Facebook is more aggressive than other tech companies in scanning for this material, it provides the most reports. The actual numbers of such content is much higher than these 60 million reports. Many cloud storage services like Amazon and Microsoft do not scan for any illegal content and reported no images or videos, while some cloud services only scan for photos but not videos. Apple’s messaging app is encrypted so they are unable to report any material and they do not scan their iCloud storage service.

Legislation has been introduced to make these tech companies follow certain procedures to detect and report this illegal content but nothing has been signed into law.

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