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Tech Companies Are Leading The Fight Against Child Porn While The FBI And DOJ Complain About Encryption Helping Child Abusers


Tech Companies Are Leading The Fight Against Child Porn While The FBI And DOJ Complain About Encryption Helping Child Abusers

(Mis)Uses of Technology

from the get-a-clue-[cough]-gentlemen dept

We hear so much from law enforcement agencies about how much tech companies -- and their encryption offerings -- are turning America into a lawless frontier where the criminals always win and the cops are eternally hamstrung. We mainly hear this from two law enforcement agencies in particular: the FBI and the DOJ.

Local cops seem to be doing just fine, but outside of Manhattan blowhard/DA Cy Vance, everyone seems to feel a rising tech tide lifts all cop boats. But these agencies insist we're "going dark." And they insist tech companies are screwing both cops and the public by allowing users to protect their communications and devices from criminals and snoopers alike, even if it means things are ever-so-slightly more difficult for criminal investigators.

But these arguments are being made using facts not in evidence. Tech companies do care about crime, public safety, law enforcement's concerns, and the general insecurity of having devices filled with personal info being carried around by the vast majority of the American public. And tech companies are doing far more to address all of these concerns (rather than just the law enforcement concerns touted by the FBI, et al) than the federales are willing to admit.

First off, tech companies are engaging in the "adult conversation" about lawful access. They're just doing it in a way the government doesn't like. They're approaching this with caution and concern, while the FBI and DOJ dishonestly claim the only "real" solution is unfettered, on-demand access to devices and communications.

White papers have been written. Honest discussions have been had. But these are ignored because they don't offer the "absolutist" options federal agencies desire. It's the DOJ and FBI who are engaging in the equivalent of kicking and screaming while ignoring the real adults in the room.

More evidence that tech companies are doing more to help than to hurt is rolling in. Casey Newton reports for The Verge that the fight against child sexual abuse is being lead by tech companies, and that law enforcement agencies are the beneficiaries of their contributions.

An example from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children drove the point home. The organization has long operated a tipline in which people can report coming across child pornography and other incidents of abuse. In the late 1990s, the tipline received 200 to 300 reports per week, said Michelle DeLaune, NCMEC’s chief operating officer. But as the internet gained adoption, and platforms began collaborating with the organization, reports to the tipline exploded. In 2018, NCMEC received more than 18 million reports of exploitative imagery.

Strikingly, 99 percent of those reports come directly from the tech platforms. Through the use of artificial intelligence, hashed images, and partnerships between companies, we’re now arguably much better informed about the scope and spread of these images — and are better equipped to catch abusers.

Notably, these reports originate from communications platforms the DOJ and FBI have complained about.

A Facebook executive says that the company bans a whopping 250,000 WhatsApp accounts a month for sharing child exploitation imagery.

The implication that tech companies are doing nothing to respond to and to prevent criminal activities are, to put it politely, horseshit. These federal agencies have a vested interest in portraying tech companies as villains presiding over an internet Wild West. They want favorable court precedent and legislation.

As tech companies appear villainous -- something not helped by their numerous appearances in front of Congressional committees -- all branches of the government are more likely to screw tech companies into behaving as extensions of the federal government. This screws users and customers as well as the companies they use, but no price is too high to pay… as long as it's paid by others.

Filed Under: backdoors, encryption, going dark, law enforcement


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