Tech Transparency Project Releases New Report Showing Facebook Has Failed to Stop Child Exploitation on its Platform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2020
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report, Broken Promises: Sexual Exploitation of Children on Facebook, revealing that pedophiles are widely using Facebook to sexually exploit children, despite Facebook’s promises to address the problem. The report is based on an analysis of federal criminal cases announced by the U.S. Department of Justice from 2013 to 2019, including guilty pleas, sentencings, and convictions.
Today, CfA also launched the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a research initiative designed to hold large technology companies accountable. TTP expands the Google Transparency Project, which, when launched in 2016, was a lonely voice focusing on holding a technology giant to account. TTP will expand GTP’s valuable work to document the power and influence of all the major technology platforms.
CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “Despite promises to clean up its act, Facebook has not reined in the ability of pedophiles to use the platform to connect with and exploit children. Parents should be forewarned: children are vulnerable to predators on Facebook. Tech platforms need to actually step up and solve this problem.”
TTP scanned the press releases on the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorneys website seeking any criminal cases that mentioned Facebook. Analysts then identified 366 individual cases involving alleged predators who used the social network for child exploitation, including distributing sexual abuse images, recruiting children, and sex trafficking.
The analysis revealed that out of the 366 child exploitation cases, fewer than one in ten – just 33 – stemmed from a tip by Facebook or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the federally designated clearinghouse that refers such tips to law enforcement.
The cases unearthed by the review represent the tip of the iceberg but hint at the serious and widespread nature of the problem. In November 2018, for example, a previously convicted sex offender from Fulton, Missouri pleaded guilty to transporting a 13-year-old girl across state lines to engage in sexual activity. Despite Facebook’s stated policies prohibiting convicted sex offenders from using its platform, the predator used Facebook Messenger to communicate with the victim.
The number of Facebook-related child exploitation cases detailed by the Justice Department has risen significantly over the past seven years, from a high of ten per quarter in 2013 to as many as 23 per quarter in 2019. TTP’s analysis also revealed that Facebook’s reports of child exploitation to authorities increased following passage of the FOSTA-SESTA federal sex trafficking law, which created the potential for litigation against tech platforms.
This new report is the first project of the Tech Transparency Project, which will serve as a research hub for journalists, academics, policymakers and members of the public interested in uncovering the effects of tech platforms on our lives. To ensure the independence of its work, TTP will not accept any funding from corporations.
Previously, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has vowed to tackle sexual exploitation of children on the platform he created. This review, however, shows he is unable, or unwilling, to do so.
Mr. Stevens continued, “Empty promises aside, the fact is Facebook is structured in a way that permits criminals to target victims and prey on minors. If Facebook won’t take child safety seriously, maybe the government will.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.