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Shareholders: Companies in Stop Hate for Profit Campaign Should Also Insist Facebook Address Violence of Child Sexual Abuse

Open Letter to 1000+ Companies Notes: Facebook is "No. 1" Online Venue for Child Predators; Greatest Harm is Suffered by Black and Hispanic Children; and COVID-19 is Fueling Online Abuse Problem.

 

NEW YORK CITY - July 30, 2020 (Investorideas.com Newswire) The more than 1,000 U.S. and other companies participating in the "Stop Hate for Profit" Facebook campaign should broaden their focus to include demanding action on the sexual violence committed on the Facebook platform by child predators, according to an open letter issued today by concerned Facebook shareholders. A major concern cited by the shareholders is that Black and Hispanic children suffer a disproportionate amount of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

According to the open letter issued by shareholders: "Today, we are appealing to the hundreds of companies that have joined the 'Stop Hate for Profit' campaign to expand their focus as they engage with Facebook and help make Facebook the safe place it should be. Here is the sad (but little known) truth: Facebook (including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) is the world's #1 hub of reported child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and the company is not doing enough to stop the problem. In 2019 there were nearly 17 million reports of child sexual abuse material online, and of that, nearly 16 million - or 94 percent - came from the Facebook platform. We are urging the advertisers who have signed on to the 'Stop Hate for Profit' campaign to speak out about the child sexual abuse online that is now being proliferated every hour of every day on Facebook's platforms. We know that sexual exploitation of children is violence! The burden of sexual abuse online is exacerbated by racism."

The open letter is signed by: Lisette Cooper, vice-chair, Fiduciary Trust International, and former CEO, Athena Capital Advisors; Michael Passoff, CEO, Proxy Impact; Josh Zinner, CEO, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Cathy Rowan, Corporate Responsibility coordinator, Maryknoll Sisters; Kyle Wright, CEO, Stardust Fund; and Lori Cohen, executive director, ECPAT-USA (a non-shareholder supporting group).

Lisette Cooper, vice-chair, Fiduciary Trust International, and former CEO, Athena Capital Advisors, said: "Online child sexual abuse and exploitation is a form of hate and violence aimed disproportionately at Black children and other youngsters of color that cannot be allowed to continue. Perpetrators find and groom children on Facebook and move them to Messenger or WhatsApp in an end-to-end platform of exploitation. On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons we need to understand that children are exploited in a chain of power and profit. Facebook must be held to account for its role here every bit as much as it is for the other hate and violence already focused on in the 'Stop Hate for Profit' campaign. There is no way that Facebook should be allowed to profit, intentionally or otherwise, from child sexual exploitation."

Michael Passoff, CEO, Proxy Impact, said: "As long-term shareholders in Facebook, we empathize with all those calling on the company to 'hit pause on hate' and believe that the 'Stop Hate For Profit' campaign will help make Facebook a better company. We are 100 percent in alignment with the campaign's view that 'profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and violence.' We believe that online child sexual abuse should be added to that list, especially given Facebook's central role in facilitating it. As concerned shareholders, we actively encourage Facebook to do the right thing and, as a result, avoid the litigation, regulation, reputational damage, and other risks that pose a danger to the long-term viability of the company."

David Schilling, senior program director for human rights, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, said: "Facebook has hired staff to focus on human rights issues which is a positive development. Top of the agenda must be the end of child sexual abuse material on all of the company's platforms. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights define the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and identifies children as an especially vulnerable group where special measures need to be taken to secure their safety. Facebook must take complete and decisive action so that no child falls victim to online sexual exploitation on its platforms."

Lori Cohen, Executive Director, ECPAT-USA: "On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, it is critical to hold Facebook and other social media sites accountable for the role they play in facilitating the abuse of our most vulnerable population - our children. As the Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, the nation's leader in combating child exploitation and trafficking, I have seen firsthand the severe and lasting consequences when a company chooses to put profits over child safety. Urging advertisers to raise their concerns about child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is a powerful tool to spark change."

According to the open letter from concerned shareholders, African American and other children of color are disproportionately impacted by sexual abuse and sexual exploitation online:

  • African American children are victims of sexual abuse at almost twice the rate as white children.
  • The World Health Organization estimates 200 million children are sexually abused each year and much of that abuse is online or captured and distributed digitally.
  • African American youth are overrepresented in child sex trafficking cases. According to the FBI, more than half of juveniles arrested as participants in the commercial sex trade are African American children.
  • Over 91 percent of girls appearing in Los Angeles' STAR Court, a court for child sex trafficking victims, are African American or Latina.

Additionally, the letter notes that Covid-19 has added to an explosion in online activity and child abuse.

The concerned shareholders issuing the open letter to Facebook advertisers have been actively involved in efforts to get the online giant to address child sexual abuse and exploitation. On May 27th, a shareholder resolution sponsored by the group attracted the support of 43 percent of non-management Facebook shares, representing more than 712 million shares with a value of over $163 billion.

During an earlier news conference, resolution sponsors warned that the Facebook platform's planned move to encryption will cloak the actions of child predators and make children more vulnerable to sexual abuse. By moving to end-to-end encryption without first taking steps to stop child sexual abuse on its platforms, Facebook will effectively make invisible 70 percent of CSAM cases - an estimated 12 million instances - that are currently being detected and reported. The shareholder resolution asked the company to review the harmful impact that end-to-end encryption could have on worsening the scourge of child abuse and exploitation at Facebook.

MEDIA CONTACT

Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255 or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

For the full text of the open letter to Facebook advertisers, go to www.keepkidssafeonline.org.

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