Child abuse, encryption and the rule of law

This morning’s Observer column:

Last week the New York Times published the most depressing piece I’ve read in a long time. “The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse,” said the headline. “What Went Wrong?”

The article was the outcome of a major investigation by two NYT reporters – Michael Keller and Gabriel Dance – into what they described as “an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it”.

The reporters also found that (as with hate speech and terrorist propaganda) many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it; law enforcement agencies tasked with the problem are understaffed and underfunded; and the US justice department, despite being given major responsibility for the problem by Congress, has fallen down on the job. Sign up to the Media Briefing: news for the news-makers Read more

Given the outrage-fatigue that now grips many of us as liberal democracy self-destructs, it would be tempting to just file this disturbing report in the “more downsides of tech” folder and move on. That temptation should be resisted…

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