In 2018, Apple blocked the Telegram app until it fixed a vulnerability that allowed child sex imagery to be sent to others. They have also launched new and stronger parental controls for parents to monitor time and app usage and suspicious activity of children’s internet and phone use, addressing one of our key asks.
In October 2017, CBIS attended the World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World in Rome, and the Declaration of Rome – an action plan for faith leaders, governments, and companies to better address child sexual exploitation online – which was subsequently endorsed by Pope Francis. CBIS is now part of a subroup of experts working to roll out the Declaration and will report to the Vatican on progress. Beginning in 2018 ,we will be organizing an advisory committee of investors that specialize in children’s human rights, to draft expectations for the technology sector to better protect children from the digital threats of exploitation, grooming, and trafficking online.
In May 2017, CBIS’ Tracey Rembert and Shaska Chirinos met with Chicago Police Department detectives to learn more about how internet technology is used to both assist and deter law enforcement in identifying child sex traffickers. We are also interviewing leading nonprofits like Thorn, The Technology Coalition, the ACLU and Unicef to understand how the many pieces of technology, privacy law, and online sex abuse connect. We will use this information to work with our focus companies to implement best practices for oversight and disclosure, and specific policies that better identify and prevent child sexual abuse online.
In the second quarter of 2017, Apple responded about its Guidelines for App Developers. The tech giant has long disallowed pornography and included some language prohibiting physical harm to users, including kids. The Guidelines highlight software developers’ responsibilities to refrain from facilitating content that conflicts with Apple’s terms. In September, Apple released an updated set of Guidelines that took an even stronger stance on the topic: “In extreme cases, such as apps that are found to facilitate human trafficking and/or the exploitation of children, appropriate authorities will be notified.” Apple further prohibited developers from using facial recognition software for account authentication if users are under 13; it strengthened its Kids portal requirements, anti-bullying, and anti-violence criteria; and it curtailed more Location Services tracking that can endanger children and facilitate sex grooming.
In 2016, CBIS began to engage Apple on the issue of distribution of pornography. As a leader in the digital world, Apple has a responsibility to ensure that users of their digital store, content sharing, and communication products are property protected. Apple lags industry competitors such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, which have championed preventative software to report exploitative images and implemented zero tolerance policies in their code of ethics. CBIS will work with Apple to ensure the company is creating policies designed to protect children online, promoting positive use of information and communication technologies, creating new tools to improve the detection and removal of exploitative content, and reporting annually on progress and challenges. With little disclosure on the topic, Apple was been a difficult company to assess in terms of its policies, programs or commitment to combating illegal porn and child sexual exploitation. The company had no disclosure of policies on the issue, nor partnerships with key anti-exploitation or trafficking groups. After writing the company and having initial discussions with corporate staff, and we were told we are the first investor to raise such issues with the company to date. Apple disclosed one policy to CBIS, but refused to divulge more – Microsoft, Facebook, Kik, and Google (Alphabet) are doing far more. CBIS began building a coalition of Catholic investors to join us in engaging each of our five tech and telecom companies.