Verizon: Stop Child Sexual Exploitation Online

Verizon should take necessary steps to ensure its products and services do not enable child sexual exploitation.   

Child sexual exploitation online (“child pornography”) is a growing risk to children that is being exacerbated by online services and mobile technologies;

INTERPOL reported about 4,000 unique child sex images worldwide in 1995, involving a few hundred children, but the UN Office of Drugs and Crime now estimates at least 50,000 new such images posted each year online. [1] The Internet Watch Foundation noted that 55% of child sex imagery reported to it in 2017 was of children 10 or younger, and that domain names showing children being sexually abused increased by 57% from 2016 to 2017. “Internet Safety” was the fourth-ranked issue and “Sexting” the sixth-ranked in the list of major health concerns for US children, according to the 2015 National Poll on Children’s Health. [2]

In 2018, the US Congress enacted, and the President signed into law, legislation to better hold websites and ISPs legally accountable for facilitating sex trafficking on their platforms. [3] Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies have many best practices—beyond parental controls—to combat Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM), including: creating digital tools to remove CSAM online and offering such tools to peers; supporting public policy that better protects children online; corporate detection software that triggers alerts when CSAM has been searched for or downloaded; or child-protective practices over public WiFi, among others.

By comparison, Verizon’s efforts appear minimal: its Terms of Use prohibit CSAM and its User Agreements instruct how to report such material; it also improved some practices to block CSAM on its servers in response to a 2008 NY Attorney General settlement. [4] Verizon discloses little information publicly on how it systematically manages child sexual exploitation online and through mobile devices.

We believe that ICT companies lacking adequate policies, practices, and disclosures to address child sexual exploitation could suffer substantial negative impacts regarding reputation, heightened regulation, adverse publicity, or legal risk.