Meta is World’s Largest Source of Online Child Sexual Abuse Materials; Sex Trafficking Survivor to Speak at Tomorrow’s Annual Shareholder Meeting.
NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, MAY 24TH, 2022 —At the Meta shareholders meeting tomorrow in Menlo Park, CA, shareholders will vote on a proposal asking the company to report on how its plans for end-to-end encryption will affect its efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation.
The proposal was filed by Proxy Impact on behalf of individual shareowner Lisette Cooper and members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility who are institutional shareowners. The proposal will be put forward at tomorrow’s annual meeting by the proponent’s daughter, Sarah Cooper, herself a child sex-trafficking survivor. Ms. Cooper was groomed as a teenager through Facebook Messenger, met a predator in Boston, and was sold into sex slavery.
This is the third year that the proposal will be put to a shareholder vote. It has the backing of the two largest proxy voting advisories—Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis. In 2021, the proposal received the support of nearly 980 million shares, representing about 56% of the independent/non-management-controlled vote.
In 2021, there were nearly 29 million reported cases of online child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). Nearly 27 million of these cases—or 92%—stemmed from Meta platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. Governments, law enforcement agencies, and child protection organizations have harshly criticized Meta’s planned end-to-end encryption claiming it will cloak the actions of child predators and make children more vulnerable to online sexual abuse.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that Meta’s plan to apply end-to-end encryption to its platforms without first putting safety measures in place to stop CSAM could effectively conceal 70% of the CSAM incidents currently detected and reported on its platform.
The link between child sexual abuse and the internet is even more evident given the significant increase in global social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a huge surge in CSAM. The number of Meta’s CSAM reports increased 69% from its nearly 16 million reports in 2019, when shareholders first raised this issue with the company.
“As the world's largest social media platform, there is no company more central to the exponential growth of online child sexual exploitation than Meta,” said Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact. “Its actions will, for better or worse, have a major impact on global child safety. Attempts to regulate social media always focus on the need to protect children. Recent legislation in the U.S., U.K., and European Union now present significant legal liability for companies that fail to address online child sexual abuse.”
Sarah Cooper, founding member of the Brave Movement and amember of the survivor council of ECPAT-USA is a survivor of child sexual abuse through Facebook Messenger, and now educates others about just how dangerous Facebook can be to children. “I was groomed on Facebook by an older man who pretended to be a teenager. Kids don’t understand the full implication of sharing sexual materials online. The main responsibility for the safety of children from predators using online platforms should not lie with the child or with the parent, but with the social media provider itself. Only they have the tools, the access, and the scope to provide a safe space for children. Now, Meta is making young people more vulnerable by planning to expand encryption across its platforms and pushing kids towards already encrypted WhatsApp through advertising campaigns, before fully dealing with the lack of safety on their platforms. We ask members of the Facebook Board of Directors to talk directly with survivors to better understand this urgent issue and form the basis of an ongoing collaboration. It’s time we turned the tide on child sexual exploitation and abuse online.”
Brave Movement’s #BeBraveZuck Campaign
The #BeBraveZuck Campaign was launched in April 2022 by the Brave Movement, to build on Sarah Cooper’s work with Meta shareholders and child safety organizations to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg accountable for the company’s role in facilitating online child sexual abuse.
In 2020, 79% of U.S. underage sex trafficking victims recruited online were recruited through Facebook or Instagram. A letter sent to Facebook by 120+ child protection organizations stated that Facebook’s encryption plan “presents an unacceptable risk to children, and would arguably make your services unsafe.”
Meta's response has been to defend its push towards end-to-end encryption as a choice between internet privacy or child safety. Yet, tech experts point out that the technology exists to protect privacy while still allowing a search for CSAM in encrypted data.
“A company cannot claim to value internet privacy and human rights without protecting child privacy and children's rights as well,” said Lisette Cooper, Vice-Chair, Fiduciary Trust International, a Meta shareholder and the mother of Sarah Cooper. “Shareholders are not being asked to choose between internet privacy and child safety—both of these issues can be adequately addressed. Meta needs to redouble its efforts on child safety by working with survivors of online sexual exploitation and child safety organizations to make their platforms safer for children. Strong child safety protections need to be in place before expanding end-to-end encryption to additional Meta platforms.”
Meta shareholders are encouraged to learn more about this issue. In addition, parents and teens can read or listen to Sarah Cooper’s story, and educate themselves about measures they can take to create a safe Internet environment for their children via BeInternetAwesome and The Family Online Safety Institute.
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 51st year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs, and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
About Proxy Impact
Proxy Impact provides shareholder engagement and proxy voting services that promote sustainable and responsible business practices. For more information, visit www.proxyimpact.com.