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Tech companies must do more to protect children online, says opinion piece

A recent opinion piece published by The Washington Post argues that tech companies are responsible for protecting children online from various harms, such as sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and addiction. The author, who is a child advocate and a former federal prosecutor, criticizes the idea that parents are solely responsible for keeping their kids safe on the internet. He also calls out the tech industry for allowing child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) to spread on their platforms, and for hiding behind privacy claims to avoid accountability.

The dangers of the internet for children

The opinion piece cites several studies and reports that show how the internet can pose serious risks to children’s well-being. For example, one study found that 15 percent of U.S. teens have received unwanted explicit images online, and another report revealed that more than 40 million CSAM files were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2019. The author also mentions the recent revelations about Facebook’s internal research that showed how its products can harm young users’ mental health, body image, and self-esteem.

The author argues that these dangers are not just a matter of parental supervision or education, but also a result of the design and business models of tech platforms. He says that tech companies have created addictive and manipulative features that exploit children’s vulnerabilities, such as infinite scrolling, autoplay, and personalized recommendations. He also claims that tech companies have failed to implement adequate safeguards and moderation tools to prevent and remove harmful content and behavior on their platforms.

Tech companies must do more to protect children online, says opinion piece

The role of tech companies in protecting children online

The opinion piece urges tech companies to take more responsibility and action to protect children online. The author says that tech companies have a moral and legal obligation to do so, as they are the ones who create and profit from the products that expose children to harm. He also says that tech companies have the resources and expertise to develop and deploy effective solutions, such as encryption that allows for detection of CSAM, age verification systems, and content filters.

The author also challenges the tech industry’s argument that privacy and security are incompatible with child protection. He says that privacy is not an absolute right, and that it must be balanced with other interests, such as public safety and human rights. He also says that encryption is not a panacea, and that it can be abused by criminals and terrorists to evade law enforcement and justice. He calls for a more nuanced and collaborative approach between tech companies, governments, civil society, and users to find a reasonable compromise that respects both privacy and child protection.

The need for more regulation and oversight

The opinion piece concludes by calling for more regulation and oversight of the tech industry to ensure that they protect children online. The author says that voluntary self-regulation has proven to be ineffective and insufficient, as evidenced by the repeated scandals and controversies involving tech platforms. He also says that existing laws and regulations are outdated and inadequate, as they do not reflect the realities and challenges of the digital age.

The author advocates for a comprehensive and coherent legal framework that sets clear standards and expectations for tech companies regarding child protection online. He also supports the creation of an independent oversight body that can monitor and enforce compliance, impose sanctions, and provide guidance and best practices. He says that such a framework would not only protect children online, but also foster trust and innovation in the digital economy.

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