Producers of Child Sexual Abuse Material Are Systematically Coming After Our Children

Producers of Child Sexual Abuse Material Are Systematically Coming After Our Children
(Africa Studio/Adobe Stock)
Elizabeth Fisher Good

Kids love social media—and frighteningly, so do sexual predators. One in nine young people has been approached online by one of the estimated 500,000 of these dangerous criminals who are on these platforms daily. Digital social platforms enable the two to interact, while the child often believes that he or she is connecting with a peer, resulting in devastating consequences for millions of children who end up sexually exploited and featured in child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

While the term child pornography is still commonly used by the public, it’s more accurate to call it what it is: child sexual abuse. Commercial sexual abuse material, or CSAM, refers to any visual, textual, or audible depiction or production of explicit or inferred child sexual assault or exploitation. Searching for, viewing, creating, or sharing this content is illegal and places minors in extreme danger. Reports of CSAM online have increased by an alarming 15,000 percent over the past 15 years.

While some of the pornographic content online portrays adults who may appear to have consented to being filmed, that’s never the case when the images depict children (it’s also not the case for many adults). Just as children can’t legally consent to sex, they can’t consent to having explicit images of themselves recorded and distributed—this is a prime example of sex trafficking. Every time this occurs, the child has been a victim of sexual abuse and exploitation. The child was forced, manipulated, or groomed to participate, or it was the result of sextortion, when a child has been threatened and coerced into sending explicit images online. Sextortion is an increasing threat to children.

Parents and other advocates for the safeguarding of children must call on companies that are involved in social media platforms and content storage to do their part in ridding the internet of this kind of content, which poses such an enormous threat to our kids. We’re fighting for our children, our grandchildren, and our future generations. Studies have shown direct links between the use of social media and depression, the sexualization of children, eating disorders, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. If we take action, in less than a decade, everything could be different.

The startling reality is that the social media platforms we use every day to connect and share information with others, including online gaming and text messaging, are now being used to broadly collect and distribute CSAM, most of which goes unmonitored and unaddressed. In 2022 alone, almost 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation were reported by online platforms to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline, and that number is growing. Those reports included 87.1 million images and videos of CSAM, most of which were circulated via social media.

Tech companies are legally required to report CSAM when they discover it, but they’re not required to proactively look for it. In August 2021, Apple announced a plan to scan photos that users stored in iCloud for CSAM. The tool was meant to be privacy-preserving and allow the company to flag potentially problematic and abusive content without revealing anything else. To some, the initiative was controversial, and it soon drew widespread criticism from privacy and security researchers and digital rights groups who were concerned that the surveillance capability itself could be abused to undermine the privacy and security of iCloud users around the world.

In September 2021, Apple said that it would pause the rollout of the feature to “collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.” Since then, the company said that in response to the feedback and guidance that it received, the CSAM-detection tool for iCloud photos is effectively dead.

This isn’t acceptable. The quickest way to derail a child’s destiny is to rob them of their identity, innocence, and capacity to love and be loved. Teens and young children who are introduced to this content early become desensitized to it and confused as to what’s appropriate. It’s dismantling their ability for intimacy and a healthy family.

When today’s parents were kids, access to porn was a Playboy magazine that you found hidden in the garage. Today, children are given digital devices that come pre-loaded with obscene sexual content. It’s anything but intimate. Their neural pathways are quite literally being reprogrammed by the imprint left in their mind from an onslaught of hardcore, often violent, always abusive, pornography.

Our children and grandchildren are being groomed for exploitation. Social media culture is sexualizing our kids to the point that little girls have begun posting nudes as early as 7 years old. They’re being robbed of the ability to truly understand intimacy, how to love and be loved, how to be hugged and held and kissed and enjoy the sacredness of marriage. This is one of the reasons that our organization, The Foundation United, has developed resources like SPEAK UP and REAL TALK—programs to prevent grooming and trafficking before it happens.

Are we going to stand by and let this happen? We must boldly stand up to the companies that control these online platforms and tell them that this is unacceptable. There’s nothing more important than protecting our children.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good has been a leader in the anti-sex trafficking movement since 2011. Her vision to end sexual exploitation led to the launch of The Foundation United (est. 2018), which collaboratively provides systemic change to eradicate sexual exploitation and addresses sexual abuse, the root cause of trafficking. Her experience from corporate America, to being an Area Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, to creating Real Talk, a systemic tool to protect and arm churches, has positioned her to awaken and bring freedom to individuals from all walks of life. Her passion exists for leaders of the global Church. She is the author of “Groomed” (2020) and recipient of the New York City Global Business Leader Award, SRQ Women of Influence Award, Tampa Bay Business Woman of the Year Award, and honored as one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century in New York City. She has led two TedX and LiftX Talks on leadership for over 17,000 military leaders, and spoke at the 2022 Global Strategy Forum in Austria. Elizabeth was a featured speaker at 2023 Conference for The Vision of Leading Women at The Palace of the Parliament Human Rights Hall.
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