Several tech companies are joining forces to combat child abuse on their platforms. Google, Meta, Discord, and others are setting up a joint platform with which they will exchange information about and signals of child abuse.
The new program will be called Lantern and functions as a kind of database in which participants exchange signals of child abuse, such as infringing URLs and relevant keywords used to groom minors or buy or sell child abuse material. The companies may also share hashes of abuse images or account information, such as usernames and email addresses.
The other participants can then use that information to conduct research on their own platforms. This way they can take action against any illegal content or activity and, if necessary, take action and report it to the relevant authorities. The platforms emphasize that the signals in themselves are not seen as definitive evidence, but only as a reason to conduct further research.
During the pilot phase of the project, URLs shared by MEGA resulted in “more than ten thousand” Facebook profiles, Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts being taken offline. The profiles and pages in question have been shared with the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Meta also re-shared details about his research via the Lantern platform, which could then be used by the other participants. Discord also says it has already used information from Lantern.
The Lantern program has been in the making for two years, according to participants. The program currently includes Discord, Google, MEGA, Meta, Quora, Roblox, Snap and Twitch. In addition to developing the technology behind the platform, the participants also had the program ‘screened’ to ensure that it complies with laws and regulations and that it is ‘ethically responsible’. As part of the program, companies must complete mandatory training and regular check-ins take place. The participants also say that they ‘regularly’ evaluate their policy and actions.
The Business for Social Responsibility coalition prepared a report on Lantern and oversees the initiative. The BSR is also responsible for establishing guidelines and rules for sharing data via the platform. The BSR includes more than 300 companies and focuses on global safety and sustainability issues.