The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), on February 27, announced the launch of a new tool to remove sexually explicit images of children from the internet. The tool, called Take It Down, allows “users from around the world to submit a report that can help remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos depicting a child under 18 years old.”
Why does this matter: Non-consensual sharing of sexual images of minors is a major problem that all social media platforms unanimously agree on eliminating, but are not doing enough about. This latest tool makes it easier for platforms to remove illegal images and videos as it gives affected users the ability to anonymously and conveniently self-report such images and videos.
“Having explicit content online can be scary and very traumatizing, especially for young people. The adage of ‘you can’t take back what is already out there’ is something we want to change. The past does not define the future and help is available.” — Gavin Portnoy, vice president of Communications & Brand at NCMEC
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Which platforms have adopted the new tool:
- Meta (Facebook & Instagram)
“All five of the participating platforms have been previously criticized for failing to protect minors from sexual exploitation. A BBC News report from 2021 found children could easily bypass OnlyFans’ age verification systems, while Pornhub was sued by 34 victims of sexual exploitation the same year, alleging that the site knowingly profited from videos depicting rape, child sexual exploitation, trafficking, and other nonconsensual sexual content. Yubo — described as “Tinder for teens” — has been used by predators to contact and rape underage users, and the NCMEC estimated last year that Meta’s plan to apply end-to-end encryption to its platforms could effectively conceal 70 percent of the child sexual abuse material currently detected and reported on its platform,” The Verge reported.
Who can file reports with Take it Down: “If you were under age 18 when images or videos of you nude, partially nude, or in a sexually explicit situation were taken and you believe they have been or will be shared online, you can use this service,” the platform’s FAQ page explains. Parents or trusted adults can also file reports on behalf of a young person. Users from anywhere around the world can use the tool.
How does the tool work:
- Filing a report: Users who fit the above criteria can anonymously file a report on the Take it Down platform. The image or video in question does not have to be shared but has to be on the device that is being used for reporting.
- Creating hash value for the image: Take It Down will create a unique digital fingerprint, called a hash value, for the specific images or videos that have been reported.
- Hash values used by platforms to take down content: “When tech platforms sign up to participate, they are provided these hash values so they can detect and remove the imagery on their public or unencrypted sites and apps. This all happens without the image or video ever leaving a device or anyone viewing it,” NCMEC explained.
Isn’t it similar to StopNCII: StopNCII.org, a platform operated by the UK’s Revenge Porn Helpline, also works in a similar manner to curb the sharing of non-consensual intimate images (NCII) on the internet. But, StopNCII is meant for non-consensual imagery of people over the age of 18, not children.
Creating public awareness of the tool: NCMEC has created the following public service announcement that will appear on platforms that children frequent:
The past doesn’t have to define your future.
— National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (@MissingKids) February 27, 2023
Initial funding provided by Meta: Meta provided initial funding to build the infrastructure for Take It Down, NCMEC revealed. Meta has shared more details about its involvement and the tool in a blog post.
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