Child Sexual Exploitation
2019 – Verizon Communications Inc.
- Verizon Communications (Verizon) is a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP), a retailer of mobile communication devices, and a growing provider of digital content online;
- Child sexual exploitation online (“child pornography”) is a growing risk to children that is being exacerbated by online services and mobile technologies;
- The US Department of Justice’s 2016 National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction notes that “mobile devices have fundamentally changed the way offenders can abuse children,” and “apps on these devices can be used to target, recruit or groom, and coerce children” or “stream video of child sexual abuse” in real-time;
- The Internet Watch Foundation noted that 55% of child sex imagery reported to it in 2017 was of children 10 or younger, and that domain names showing children being sexually abused increased by 57% from 2016 to 2017;
- “Internet Safety” was the fourth-ranked issue and “Sexting” the sixth-ranked in the list of major health concerns for US children, according to the 2015 National Poll on Children’s Health [https://www.mottchildren.org/news/archive/201508/sexting];
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children noted that reports of suspected child sex trafficking jumped 846% between 2010-2015;
- INTERPOL reported about 4,000 unique child sex images worldwide in 1995, involving a few hundred children, but the UN Office of Drugs and Crime now estimates at least 50,000 new such images posted each year online [https://www.icmec.org/commonwealth-internet-governance-forum-a-joint-report-on-online-child-protection-combatting-child-sexual-abuse-material-on-the-internet/];
- In 2018, the US Congress enacted, and the President signed into law, legislation to better hold websites and ISPs legally accountable for facilitating sex trafficking on their platforms [https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr1865/BILLS-115hr1865enr.pdf];
- Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies have many best practices—beyond parental controls—to combat Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM), including: creating digital tools to remove CSAM online and offering such tools to peers; supporting public policy that better protects children online; corporate detection software that triggers alerts when CSAM has been searched for or downloaded; or child-protective practices over public WiFi, among others;
- But Verizon discloses little information publicly on how it systematically manages child sexual exploitation online and through mobile devices;
- We believe that ICT companies lacking adequate policies, practices, and disclosures to address child sexual exploitation could suffer substantial negative impacts regarding reputation, heightened regulation, adverse publicity, or legal risk;
RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors issue a report on the potential sexual exploitation of children through the company’s products and services, including a risk evaluation, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary or confidential information, by March 2020, assessing whether the company’s oversight, policies and practices are sufficient to prevent material impacts to the company’s brand reputation, product demand or social license.