Full Access to the Technology Coalition

Episode 6

Full Access to the Technology Coalition
Episode Summary

Listen now for Full Access to Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Technology Coalition, and to learn more about how tech companies across the world are working together to fight against the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. 

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Today on Full Access we’re discussing topics related to child sexual abuse material, also known as CSAM and child pornography. We’re addressing these topics as they pertain to law enforcement and other organizations combatting this horrific crime. We are informing you now that there is discussion of graphic content during this episode of Full Access. We hope you choose to listen and learn with us but understand if you choose not to do so. Let’s begin…

Show Notes

[01:22] Meet Sean Litton, Executive Director of the Technology Coalition. 

  • Prior to the Technology Coalition, Litton worked with the International Justice Mission for 20 years, becoming their global President in 2016 
  • Litton earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Miami and his Juris Doctorate from Notre Dame Law School 

[2:00] What is the Technology Coalition’s mission? Who are its members? 

  • Litton explains that the Technology Coalition facilitates the global tech industry’s fight against the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children 
  • The Technology Coalition is an alliance of leading tech companies of different sizes, services, and sectors working together to drive critical advances in technology to keep children safe online 
  • Garner calls out conglomerates like Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Google, Microsoft, and other competitors of each other who are coming together to fight this issue as part of the Technology Coalition 

[4:47] The Technology Coalition Mentorship Program and how the Coalition formed. 

  • Litton discusses the mentorship program and provides an example of connecting a newer company interested in a membership with the Technology Coalition who wants to coordinate with law enforcement, with a veteran member to share their experience working with the Coalition 
  • Litton calls out that the mentorship program is volunteer based and how impressed he’s been with the willingness of different members of all sizes to participate 
  • Litton describes the origins of the Technology Coalition and how it initially started as an informal collaboration to end violence against children and the distribution of CSAM 
  • CSAM is a problem that no single company can deal with. 

[10:45] Garner asks Litton to talk about why it’s so important that the Technology Coalition exists. 

  • Garner calls out how law enforcement is inundated with reports from a lot of companies (that are members of the Coalition) who are lawfully required to report to NCMEC, but they aren’t required to look for it; however, many of them do and they’re getting very good at it 
  • Litton says that the internet is a powerful tool but like all powerful tools it can be abused, so it’s important that technology exists to detect different types of CSAM imagery and report it to NCMEC 
  • Litton goes on to explains that the Technology Coalition works to detect and stop predators from engaging with children through platforms, streaming, videos, and more 

[15:20] Garner calls out how important it is for law enforcement to know what the Technology Coalition is working on. 

  • Garner speaks to working in the law enforcement arena for years, specifically fighting against CSAM, and how it needs to be acknowledged that tech industries don’t want this [CSAM] on their platforms either 
  • Litton states that all members of the Technology Coalition are required to identify, detect, and report any CSAM on their platforms and act against users (such as cancel their account), in addition to reporting them to law enforcement 
  • Litton mentions that predators tend to go to the weakest link in the chain, the place where they’re least likely to get caught and the Technology Coalition works to harden all the targets 

[17:28] Garner asks Litton to provide examples of how bigger companies like TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, and so on are working together to combat online child exploitation. 

  • Litton calls out Google’s API, which allows companies to access tools for detection in a database of known Child Sexual Abuse imagery 
  • Litton speaks to similar technologies that Facebook and Microsoft make available to smaller companies free of charge 
  • Litton talks about Thorn and Microsoft’s Project Artemis 
  • Litton discusses the working groups that the Technology Coalition facilitates to promote collaboration among its members 

[21:06] Litton and Cleveland discuss these companies working together, and with law enforcement, to keep children safe and put predators away. 

  • Litton says companies can report illegal activity and predators on their platform, but those reports must be acted upon (by law enforcement) 
  • Cleveland and Garner state that, frustratingly, there isn’t sufficient capacity on the law enforcement side to keep up with and act on every single report 
  • Litton talks about how society needs to pivot and find a way to get better and provide law enforcement with more resources, because unless those reports can be acted on the problem is not going to improve 
  • Garner joins the conversation to say she would never want tech companies to stop reporting but it’s up to the government now to make sure law enforcement has what’s needed to deal with the problem when CSAM is reported 


[25:44] Garner talks about the overwhelming workload and mental health aspect of law enforcement dealing with 15000 cyber tips per year (and counting). 

  • Garner talks about what it was like working with former teammates in ICAC and the mental toll it took knowing there were kids involved in some investigations that they would never be able to get to because there’s never enough time in the day 
  • Litton echoes Garners statements and the trauma it creates for investigators when they don’t have the capacity to act 
  • Cleveland brings attention to the fact that working CSAM cases are like turning over rocks to expose the dark things in the underbelly of our society 

[29:30] Litton calls attention to the fact that CSAM distribution is a global issue. 

  • Litton discusses the extraordinary role that NCMEC plays in helping law enforcement across the globe 
  • Garner talks about the collaboration between tech and law enforcement and how amazing it is that they’re working together for the same goal 
  • Litton clarifies that tech platforms are doing their part for business purposes

[31:27] What is the International Justice Mission (IJM)? 

  • Litton explains that IJM is a human rights organization working in about 25 countries in the developing world 
  • IJM works on issues of human trafficking, forced labor, sexual slavery, child protection, and gender-based violence 
  • Litton recalls his time living and working in the Philippines and Thailand as part of the International Justice Mission 

[38:20] Cleveland asks Litton, “how do you think the Philippines, for example, compare to the way the US handles trafficking cases?” 

  • Litton says the need is greater in the Philippines and other countries like it for capacity building and investment 
  • Litton also states that the US is ahead of the game but there are extraordinary law enforcement officers in every country 
  • Litton explains that certain countries get a bad rap but they’re not all corrupt 

[42:12] Litton discusses the path that led him to the position he’s in now. 

  • Litton reveals that he never intended to be doing what he’s doing now; like so many others it just kind of happened 
  • Litton talks about coming from a family of lawyers, and how he was moved when he began to hear stories about girls being trafficked back when IJM was first being established and felt compelled to get involved 
  • Litton shares with listeners how grateful he is for the tech industry and his opportunity to work as part of the Technology Coalition 

[46:39] The Technology Coalition is hiring. 

  • Open positions as of the recording of this episode: Director of Industry Impact, Technical Program Manager, Office Coordinator 
  • Interested listeners can find more information about the Technology Coalition at technologycoalition.org  

How do I report a Tip?

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has specific programs that can intake tips directly from individuals. Tips can be made by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or through their CyberTipline.

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