Facebook, Google and others adopt guidelines intended to fight child abuse

Christine Fisher
Contributing Writer
Westend61 via Getty Images

Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security -- along with government counterparts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom -- published guidelines to help the tech industry fight online child exploitation. The principles were developed "in consultation" with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter, after all six companies agreed to tackling the online child sexual abuse epidemic.

The document, Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, includes 11 principles. It covers themes like targeting online grooming, preventing searches of child sexual abuse material and responding to evolving threats. According to a statement published by the DOJ, the principles are "intended to have sufficient flexibility to ensure effective implementation."

"We hope the Voluntary Principles will spur collective action on the part of industry to stop one of the most horrendous crimes impacting some of the most vulnerable members of society," said US Attorney General William Barr.

Many tech companies already have at least some measures to combat child exploitation. Recently, Facebook made its algorithms for flagging harmful photos and videos open-source and available on GitHub. Microsoft has shared its tool for reviewing chat-based conversations and detecting online grooming. Still, online child exploitation is a widespread and devastating problem.