Ethical companies need to lead the way

Ethical companies need to lead the way
22 February, 2021 Anna Borgström

Ethical companies need to lead the way

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are living in a global world with global challenges. The Corona virus has spread rapidly to every corner and echelon of society, and I can’t help but think that it helps illustrate how online child sexual abuse (CSA) has permeated the internet. It is a huge problem everywhere.

I was very pleased, but slightly surprised, when reading through the interviews for this part of the NetClean Report. I was expecting more diverse answers from the participants, who represent different departments in different companies, and different drivers as to why they address the risk of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in their organisations.

IT might list ‘protection of the IT environment’, at the top, and Compliance, ‘Brand protection’, but almost everyone that NetClean spoke to pointed primarily to a desire to operate ethically, and many said that incorporating existing tangible solutions to detect CSAM chimed well with the company’s values and strategies.

Not an isolated problem

I have heard company representatives describe it as a ‘no brainer’, once they engage with the issue and decide to work proactively. However, bringing the idea of installing software to detect CSAM to a company is not always as easy as the moral issue is clear. It affects IT, HR, Compliance, Legal, Sustainability and general leadership. This is why companies that have ethical values and sustainability thinking, and view society as a stakeholder as part of their core strategies, have an easier time doing this. I believe this makes these companies champions and their attitude towards ethical values and sustainability should be celebrated.

However, we still have a long way to go. Online CSA continues to be a growing problem that is not discussed openly enough. Too many businesses see it as an isolated problem, and don’t incorporate it into their core strategical work. Too many businesses are not aware of the problem at all, or decide not to address it because they do not want to be associated with this type of crime.

Data from our NetClean Report 2018 shows that CSAM can be found on 1 in 500 work computers. With these types of numbers we need to ensure that businesses are openly aware of the problem; how it affects their IT, the reputation of the business, and the huge potential they have in aiding law enforcement by passing on information.

“Businesses are uniquely placed to provide this response
and be a force for good.”

Complex problems deserve robust responses

We must shine a light on this problem and work together to prevent it. Especially now that COVID-19 has seen many people working from home. This in itself has brought new aspects to IT security. Companies need to look at how they secure IT equipment in this new environment, and while IT work to secure it, all stakeholders in the company should unify to ensure that the technology that is owned by the company and used by employees does not facilitate CSA.

It’s an ethical stand that companies and their employees can be proud of. And, it is these types of companies that attract the brightest and best employees, and so protecting the next generation of employees is an ethical standpoint that favours the businesses.

Based on the interviews I am hopeful that engaged companies will continue to incorporate software that detects CSAM, push the issue further up on agendas and into their core business. All complex global problems, from environmental risks to safeguarding children online, need and deserve robust responses, and with the resources and the power of the private industry, businesses are uniquely placed to provide this response and be a force for good.