Children and the digital world – a meeting at the UN

Children and the digital world – a meeting at the UN
8 October, 2019 Anna Borgström

Children and the digital world – a meeting at the UN

Last week I was invited to speak at the UN Headquarters in New York, where the Working Group for Child Online Safety met for the launch of the new Broadband Commission report. The launch was hosted by Permanent Mission of Sweden, Childhood Foundation USA, Broadband Commission and End Violence Against Children.

My role in the working group is as an external expert, and I was pleased to see the many specialists and organisations that contribute to the work gather to talk about the findings in the report and how we can further support the work against child sexual abuse. I also continue to be humbled and grateful for the Queen of Sweden, Drottning Silvia’s, support of this cause.

She gave the keynote speech at the event and I shared my expertise and thoughts on what businesses can do to aid the fight against child sexual abuse.

I will write a separate post about the report and initiatives associated with it shortly, but first I want to reiterate some of the key points in my speech; what businesses can do to disrupt the dissemination of child sexual abuse, and the role that the sustainable development goals play in this.

Organisations like the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development work to showcase and document the power of ICT and broadband within the framework of the 2030 UN Development Agenda. The Commission pulls together governments, organisations, industry and academia, and where we come together to analyse, learn and produce recommendations we can only aid the cause. 

There is still a lack of knowledge about this problem, and we still need every sector to engage with it. We know through our research, and through the simple fact that the world is a connected place, that industry and businesses are uniquely placed to engage through the use of technology.

“NetClean’s research shows that 1 in 500 people view or download child sexual abuse material onto their laptop.”

Digitalisation and connectivity, global internet penetration and easy access to devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and thumb drives has led to a lot of positive developments. However, it has also resulted in a great increase in volume and accessibility of child sexual abuse material.

NetClean’s research shows that 1 in 500 people view or download child sexual abuse material onto their laptop.

We know from our research that most offenders are in employment. We also know that they are mostly male and frequently between the ages of 20-50 (employment age).

So, what can businesses do? Well, it has been said for many years that law enforcement can’t arrest themselves out of this problem. They need help to find and stop the material from being disseminated. Therefore, every business that has connectivity, IT services, devices and computers, can fight the crime by disrupting the consumption of child sexual abuse material.

“There is unfortunately no holy technological grail that can magically find and remove all online child sexual abuse material in the world. But it is very possible to find the right set of tools that will protect an organisation’s or business’ IT environment.”

Our annual NetClean reports detail the responsibilities that come with connectivity and digitalisation. There is a tangible business incentive for all companies, especially ones driving connectivity, to display ethical leadership and make sure that the technology that is rolled out and the services that are offered cannot be used to sexually exploit children.

Showing ethical leadership by using blocking and detection technologies is extremely important because the abuse goes far beyond just being an image or a video. Every image counts. It is a documented crime scene of a serious crime that has extensive and long-term negative impacts on the quality of life for the children depicted.

If businesses can halt the dissemination of this material and help law enforcement bring perpetrators to justice, then they can help grow children that do not suffer extended and extensive harm, that grow up to be not only well-functioning happy adults, but also productive citizens, employees and consumers.

There is unfortunately no holy technological grail that can magically find and remove all online child sexual abuse material in the world. But it is very possible to find the right set of tools that will protect an organisation’s or business’ IT environment. In addition, combining technologies with an understanding of the problem and sustainable policies and legal frameworks is in itself an approach that is guaranteed to provide solutions.

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) point to the rights of children and the responsibility of all sectors to ensure their welfare. This ethos, and positive and smart approach to business should be included in every business’ corporate social responsibility, and strategy for viability. But it needs to be done in such a way that it is truly helpful and effective, and not just an attempt to show willingness. It is smart business to care for the next generations.