MONTPELIER, VT- The New York Times reported that tech companies flagged 45 million photos and videos as child sex abuse material just last year alone. They say about 12 million of those images were sent through Facebook messenger.
After the explosion of reports containing images of child sexual abuse on the internet, the ongoing debate over privacy continues.
Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan said, “In today’s world our entire livelihood is on our phones. In the past, you would be rummaging through someone’s house and that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“We live in an increasingly online world. You have to talk about privacy and frankly we are having a debate in the country about technology and privacy. Who controls whose data and what role do technology companies have in terms of making sure they are protecting peoples data and reporting accurately what’s being said?” said Donovan.
Officials are calling on private tech companies to help spot these images online and reach out to law enforcement. Donovan said law enforcement needs to work with the private sector to collaborate and protect our children.
Donovan said it all comes down to one question. “Has technology outpaced the law and law enforcement tools?”
Before the digital age, offenders had to send images through the mail and rely on pictures being developed. With the increase in technology, issues like child pornography have become much more complex. Donavan said a similar incident occurred in Vermont.
“We had this issue not only of legitimate law enforcement and the need to investigate a crime, but you had conflict of law issues. You were dealing with where these images were stored because it was in another country and it ended up with an act of congress to resolve this, so this is a really complicated issue.”
It is also difficult to prosecute people in these types of cases because hard evidence is needed. Most of the time, the images are the evidence. Images are hard to obtain due to privacy issues. The A-G says that no matter how complicated these issues may be, we need to do all we can when these issues are such heinous crimes involving children.
“Regardless of how complex these legal debates are, we have to keep in mind that we are talking about children, we are talking about infants, we are talking about babies, and we need do everything we can working as a united front to prevent this type of child abuse and sexual exploitation that’s going on,” said Donovan.
This is a global issue, but the Attorney General advises that all parents be aware of what their children are doing and who they are talking too online.