Apple is one of 18 tech companies pledging to work together to build new technological tools to combat child sexual abuse. The Technology Coalition (TTC) was first formed in 2006, but has today announced a new initiative known as Project Protect.

Other members of the coalition are Adobe, Amazon, Cloudflare, Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, GoDaddy, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Roblox, Snap, Twitter, Verizon, VSCO, Wattpad, and Yubo …

TTC said a lot of progress has been made, but more is needed.

Fifteen years ago, the Technology Coalition was formed when industry leaders came together to fight online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). We believed then, as we do now, that working together can have a greater impact in combating these horrific crimes than working alone […]

Together we tackle risks to online child safety through sharing best practices, mentorship, and coordinated efforts to improve the detection and reporting of sexual abuse imagery and other exploitative practices that put children at risk.

In the last decade, member companies have made progress with the development and roll-out of innovative technology to combat online CSEA. For example, PhotoDNA, a collaboration between Microsoft and Dartmouth, is used by organizations worldwide to detect, disrupt, and report millions of child sexual exploitation images. Google’s Content Safety API dramatically improves the ability of NGOs and other tech companies to review CSEA content at scale. Facebook’s open-source photo- and video-matching technology is enabling companies to help keep their services safe and allowing hash-sharing systems to communicate with each other, making the systems more powerful.

However, the world has changed since we first came together in 2006. Technology is more advanced, and there has been an explosion of new internet services, including mobile and online video streaming. The number of people online — more than 4.5 billion in 2020 — has added to the challenge of keeping the internet a safe place. As a result, the technological tools for detecting and reporting CSEA content have become more sophisticated, but so too have the forms of abuse we seek to prevent and eradicate.

To ensure the next phase of our work addresses these new and emerging challenges most effectively, we have conducted an in-depth consultation with more than 40 experts on CSEA around the globe.

The coalition says its members are establishing a multi-million dollar research and innovation fund to devise new tech tools.

We will invest in accelerating the development and uptake of groundbreaking technology to support the cross-industry approach to thwarting child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

It will also publish an annual progress report, and hold an annual forum to being together CSEA experts to help drive future work.

Reuters notes that the TTC’s decision to increase the visibility of its work to combat child sexual abuse may be geared to fighting increasing pressure to compromise the end-to-end encryption systems used by tech companies to provide their customers with private messaging and file-storage services. Apple has repeatedly explained to governments that it is not possible to create back doors that can be used by law enforcement without them being discovered and exploited by criminals, but governments continue to demand the impossible.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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