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Hope For Children joins the Worldwide coalition urging Mark Zuckerberg to make Facebook safe for children

“Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center is pleased to announce its participation in the major global coalition of leading child protection experts and organizations across the world writing to Mark Zuckerberg and demanding Facebook to publicize its private assessments of the risks young people face on all platforms.

Around 60 organisations and leaders working within the field of child protection and safety, led by the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) have expressed in written major concerns about Facebook’s approach to protecting children from serious harm. At the same time, we are calling on the company and its owner, Mark Zuckerberg, to take significant measures to restore trust and ensure young users that are safe when using its applications.

This move is emerging from the discussions on how the tech giant failed to act on evidence about the impact that Instagram was having on the mental health of teenage girls, as mentioned by Facebook’s former employee, Frances Haugen. Haugen questions about wider risks facing children on these platforms, including child sexual abuse and the exacerbation of risks of harm to children. The movement was created after the company revealed that it removed 25.7 million items of child sexual exploitation content from its platforms in Quarter 2 of 2020/21.

The coalition on child safety online lays out a five-step response for Facebook in order to regain the trust of parents and professionals and at the same time, to demonstrate that it is addressing child safety risks in the most serious manner.

Here we outline the five recommendations included in the coalition to restore trust and confidence in Facebook’s approach towards child safety:

  1. Share its full research on children’s mental health and well-being, and grant access to its data to independent researchers, civil society organisations and regulators. This is in light of the findings that Instagram is having a negative mental health impact on young users.
  1. Set-out what research has been conducted on how Facebook’s services and design choices contribute to child sexual abuse, and publish the findings. There are substantive questions about what research has been undertaken to determine how Facebook’s design choices contribute to the growing scale and complexity of child sexual abuse, including grooming and the production of self-generated child abuse images.
  1. Publish Facebook’s risk assessments, including the regulatory risk assessment required under the UK Children’s Code: The coalition fully agrees with Nick Clegg’s assessment that ‘it would be really worrisome if Facebook didn’t do this sort of research in the first place’. However, the most concerning aspect of Frances Haugen’s disclosures is that once this research was undertaken it appears there was a wholly insufficient response to fix the issues raised.

UK regulation now requires Facebook to demonstrate it is taking decisions in the best interests of children, and must specifically assess whether its products contribute toonline grooming; harmful and inappropriate content; and social anxiety, self-esteem issues. Facebook should publish this risk assessment to demonstrate it is complying with regulation and what product and design changes it has made to do so.

  1. Provide transparency on Facebook’s product reputational reviews. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that Facebook has put on hold work on new and existing products to conduct reputational reviews. These are believed to examine how the company may be criticised and to ensure products don’t adversely affect children. The coalition welcomes this decision but urges Facebook to share more information on which criteria are being used to determine the risks to children, how they were arrived at, and which independent experts are being consulted.
  1. Review the child protection implications of end-to-end encryption and agree to a risk assessment on the impacts on children: In May this year, Facebook’s Board successfully voted down a proposal to risk assess the impacts of end to end encryption on child abuse. This position should be reversed to ensure the impact on children’s rights to privacy and safety are understood.

 A full copy of the letter sent to Mark Zuckerberg can be found here.

Finally, for further information on the programs and actions of Hope For Children for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse against children, you may visit the online platform www.uncrcpc.org.cy

A full list of the 59 signatories to the letter to Mark Zuckerberg is as follows:

Professor Warren Binford, W.H. Lea for Justice Endowed Chair in Pediatric Law, Ethics & Policy University of Colorado (Affiliation for Informal Purposes Only)
John Carr, OBEChildren's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety
Professor Julia Davidson OBEChild Protection Expert 
Professor Hany Farid University of California, Berkeley
Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE, FBA, FAcSS, FBPS, FRSALondon School of Economics and Political Science
Dr Elena Martellozzo, Associate Professor in Criminology Middlesex University, Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS)
Abhilash Nair, Senior Lecturer in Internet Law Aston University, Birmingham
Dr Michael Salter, Scientia Associate Professor of CriminologyUniversity of New South Wales Sydney
Child Helpline InternationalInternational
International Centre for Missing & Exploited ChildrenInternational
Albanian National Child HelplineAlbania
Carly Ryan FoundationAustralia
eChildhood Australia
Collective ShoutAustralia
ECPAT AustriaAustria
Missing Children Europe Belgium
Applied Research and Communications Fund Bulgaria
National Network for Children Bulgaria
PULSE FoundationBulgaria
Sustainability for Progressive and Open CommunicationBulgaria
Canadian Centre for Child ProtectionCanada
Red PaPaz   Colombia
"Hope For Children" CRC Policy Center Cyprus 
Protect Children Finland / Suojellaan Lapsia ryFinland
Association e-Enfance/3018France
Innocence in Danger Germany
DotKids Hong Kong
Webwise (Irish SIC Awareness Centre)Ireland
SOS Il Telefono Azzurro OnlusItaly
SOS Malta Malta
Terre des HommesNetherlands
Empowering Children FoundationPoland
Spletno oko Hotline Slovenia
Kinderschutz SchweizSwitzerland
ECPAT Taiwan Taiwan
5RightsUnited Kingdom
Barnardo’sUnited Kingdom
Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE)United Kingdom
Children EnglandUnited Kingdom
The Children’s SocietyUnited Kingdom
ECPAT UKUnited Kingdom
Internet Watch FoundationUnited Kingdom
KidscapeUnited Kingdom
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation United Kingdom
Marie Collins FoundationUnited Kingdom
Molly Rose FoundationUnited Kingdom
NSPCCUnited Kingdom
UK Safer Internet CentreUnited Kingdom
Child Rescue CoalitionUSA
International Justice Mission’s Center to End Online Sexual Exploitation of ChildrenUSA
The Alliance to Counter Crime OnlineUSA

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