The Justice Department and Homeland Security, along with government counterparts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, announced the publication of Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.  Developed in consultation with several leading technology companies, the 11 voluntary principles outline measures that companies in the technology industry can choose to implement to protect the children who use their platforms from sexual abuse online and to make their platforms more difficult for child sex offenders to exploit.

At the Five Country Ministerial Digital Industry Roundtable on July 30, 2019 in London, the Five Country Ministers and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter agreed “tackling [the online child sexual abuse] epidemic requires an immediate upscaling of the global response to ensure that all children across the globe are protected…and that there is no safe space online for offenders to operate.”  As a result, the Five Countries developed the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in consultation with the six companies and a broad range of experts from industry, civil society and academia.

The voluntary principles provide a common and consistent framework to guide the digital industry in its efforts to combat the proliferation of online child exploitation.  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; and
  • Collaborate and respond to evolving threats.

The Five Country governments have partnered with the WePROTECT Global Alliance — an international body comprising government, industry and civil society members — to promote the Principles globally and drive collective industry action.  The WePROTECT Global Alliance will also collate information about industry’s uptake of the Principles, connect subject matter experts to share best practices for implementation, and analyze the evolving threat environment to identify gaps in the global response.  Five Country Governments will work closely with the WePROTECT Global Alliance to ensure the Principles remain fit-for-purpose for emerging trends and threats.

“Combating online child sexual exploitation is a top priority for the department," said Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf.  "ICE Homeland Security Investigations has one in 10 agents investigating child sexual exploitation at any given time and that is why DHS released its first Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation.  I am confident the Voluntary Principles will help us move forward our goal of creating a world where children can grow up free from sexual exploitation.  The Voluntary Principles set new norms across the private sector, incorporating child safety throughout a company’s operations and properly considering the needs of victim-survivors.”