ISLAMABAD: One of the biggest social media platforms, Facebook, in collaboration with the Zindagi Trust has launched a campaign to raise awareness on eradicating online sharing of child abuse material and urged people to report such content through proper channels. The company, together with its child safety partner, Zindagi Trust, has developed a campaign that is aimed at encouraging Facebook users in Pakistan to report content containing any type of violence and abuse against the children instead of sharing and re-posting it.
A special focus has been given to the campaign, which is educating people about the effects of posting such content of the victims. It suggests that any sharing of the content featuring child exploitation is illegal and causes further harm, no matter the context it is being shared in.
The campaign comprising instructional and informative videos is based on research conducted by Facebook, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and a leading clinical psychologist who specialises in sex offenders, Professor Ethel Quayle. This research was conducted to understand the reasons behind sharing and re-posting child exploitation content on social media platforms.
During the behavior analysis of 150 individuals who had shared child exploitative content on Facebook, child safety experts found out that more than 75% of them did not exhibit intent to harm children. Instead, they appeared to share child exploitation content for other reasons, such as outrage or poor humour.
Zindagi Trust Programme Officer Ali Aftab said that the content containing child abuse in Pakistan is often accompanied by captions that implore law enforcement agencies to take notice and pursue action.
“Our campaign will also focus on educating the community on how to report content directly to relevant local authorities,” said Aftab. We will work with NGOs, law enforcement, and government agencies to improve the efficacy of existing mechanisms so that help and support can be provided to children and their families in a timely manner, he added.
According to Facebook Pakistan Public Policy Manager Sehar Tariq, preventing and eradicating online child sexual exploitation and abuse requires a cross-industry approach. “Facebook is committed to doing its part to protect children on and off our apps. We are taking a research-informed approach to develop effective solutions that disrupt the sharing of child exploitation material,” said Tariq. Zindagi Trust Founder Shehzad Roy said that there is a dire need to understand that child protection needs to extend to all spaces, including digital. He said that it is great to see Facebook taking an initiative towards preventing the spread of online child abuse material.
“By advocating for changes in state policy we have helped prohibit corporal punishment, introduce Life Skills Based Education in schools and reform performance evaluations for teachers and now we will advocate for effective policy recommendations to safeguard children from cybercrime,” said Roy. However, it will be vital for government institutions and social media companies to remain engaged in this dialogue and take action, he added.