Corporations CAN Change—Progress in 2021

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At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, we work year-round to ensure that everyone has the right to live and love free from the damaging impacts of sexual exploitation and abuse.  

One of the key ways we can accomplish this is through corporate advocacy—working directly with companies, as well as calling on them publicly to change their policies and practices to better protect everyone from harm whether it’s online or in person. 

Corporations Have Power and Resources to Reduce Harms

The world is waking up to the harms—and the power to reduce those harms—tech companies and platforms in particular have on society. With the pandemic ushering in a new age of increased digital activity, including education, work, and entertainment, tech companies have seen record profits over the last two years. However, most tech platforms are not doing enough to address the simultaneously increasing risks to children and vulnerable adults online.  

The Internet Watch Foundation named 2021 as the Worst Year on Record for online child sexual abuse. NCMEC reported a 97.5% increase in online enticement reports. And the entire world watched in the fall of 2021 as technology titans like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat faced Congressional hearings over their decisions to place profits over people. The evidence collected, actions regular citizens like you took, and the messages you wrote in helped inform those hearings—and highlighted the role corporations have in making platforms safer by design. If they choose not to, they’ll be obligated to do so through legislation and regulation.  

We can’t truly have a world free from sexual exploitation without these powerful entities taking the collective responsibility seriously to eliminate and prevent abuse from happening.

Is It Worth It to Go Up Against Giant Corporations and Entities?

We know going up against giant tech companies, Fortune 500 corporations, and the billion-dollar pornography industry can often be utterly overwhelming. Even the most optimistic among us can feel daunted, questioning whether any effort—big or small—can make a difference.  

But we assure you that YES! Collectively, we can change corporations . . . and we have, with your support and dedication.

Those changes have an impact on countless men, women, and children—making them safer online from pornography exposure and child sexual abuse, eliminating easy and normalized access to sex buyers’ ability to purchase bodies for their pleasure, and ensuring corporate accountability. 

We are gearing up for another successful year of corporate change, and we need your help once again! Join us at the 2022 Dirty Dozen List reveal event on Tuesday, March 8 by registering to watch live here. And while we can’t wait to show you the new list and give you quick actions you can take to make a difference, take a moment to celebrate the change we saw in 2021!  

Galvanizing Change: Progress and Victories from the 2021 Dirty Dozen List

Google 

Global tech giant Google made significant changes to their policies and features this year, resulting in one of our biggest victories yet! After years of advocacy with Google and the DDL 2021 push for changes to Chromebooks specifically to be made safer, Google proactively turned on all safety measures as the default for Chromebooks and other educational productsused for K–12 education to safety for all users under the age of 18—thereby further protecting millions of kids from predators and harmful exposure to pornography!  

Google also made other key changes, such as placing the SafeSearch feature at a higher level in the settings, making it easier to find and turn on. They also chose to automatically protect their young users by defaulting SafeSearch for those under the age of 18, and now allows parents to request removal of minors’ pictures in Google Images.

The company also has made changes that would significantly stem the normalization of the commercial sexual exploitation industry by prohibiting sugar dating or “compensated sexual acts” apps from the Google Play store. Seeking Arrangement, one of our 2021 Dirty Dozen List targets and a known exploiter, had ads removed from Google Search and Google Ads after NCOSE flagged they were still showing up in Incognito mode despite Google policy prohibiting ads that marketed compensated sexual acts.  

The Dirty Dozen List WORKS! Your actions calling on Google mattered this year. A Google spokesperson said: 

We are constantly working to improve our products and services to make them even safer for children, students and families. Together with key experts, like NCOSE, we are committed to putting the safety, security and privacy needs of our users first. We’re excited that the changes announced today help provide schools around the world with controls to provide students with an even safer way to learn.” 

TikTok 

TikTok is one of the most popular platforms for young people today, and continues to make improvements to their policies and procedures to better protect the millions of minors using the app every day. In 2021, TikTok increased AI use in proactively scanning and removing content that violates their content guidelines, such as videos showing nudity or sexual activity or threatening minor safety before the content is ever posted to the public. They also updated their Community Guidelines with key changes NCOSE asked for, including prohibiting “content depicting a minor that contains sexually explicit song lyrics”. Read more about the changes and how TikTok can still improve here.  

Snapchat 

Snapchat is another app that remains one of the most popular social media platforms for teens, and unfortunately it also remains one of the most dangerous. However, Snapchat did make improvements to better protect their users this year by blocking the ability for minors to change their birth year to over 18, thereby bypassing any sort of age-restricted content from being accessed. In addition, they made it harder for adults to find minors by automated suggestion in the Quick Add feature. They also announced parental controls for 2022 and an updated Parent’s Guide to Snapchat that includes information about the extensive risks that come with using the app, especially predatory or illegal behavior such as sextortion, sexting, grooming, and more.  

Discord 

Discord made a few key changes to their policies that will better protect minors on their platform from accessing sexually explicit and other inappropriate content, now called “age-restricted content” instead of the confusing and normalizing “NSFW” term previously used by Discord official language. Earlier in 2021, Discord added the ability to designate entire servers as age-restricted, instead of just individual channels within a server that was allowing minors to join groups that had sexually explicit content. They also made it harder to access sexually explicit material through the iOS app, requiring users to opt-in through the desktop or web version of Discord.  

Twitch 

Twitch, the live-streaming video platform owned by Amazon, has come under fire for reports of abuse and sexual harassment, both on the platform and within the company itself. In 2021, they updated their policies to include serious offenses that could pose a safety threat, even when they happen entirely away from the streaming service, offline. Those threats include violent extremism and sexual assault, among other important issues.  

Wish 

Wish is an online retail shopping website and app used by over 500 million people—and profits from the marketing of child-like sex dolls, spycams advertised as useful for filming women nude without permission, and misogynistic apparel. They also were listed as a “Top Mainstream Advertiser” with TrafficJunky, the MindGeek-owned advertising firm. After NCOSE called Wish out for partnering with one of the world’s biggest sources of online pornography, Wish demanded MindGeek remove their logo and said: We’ve spoken with TrafficJunky as we have never had any agreement with them, nor have they ever served ads on our behalf.  They have removed our logo from their website and have ensured they will no longer misrepresent any partnership between us. NCOSE also noted Wish removed nonconsensual image capture as a component of spycam marketing, confirming this practice is against their policies.  

Amazon 

Amazon made some key improvements to the streaming service Amazon Prime, improving parental controls to allow users to set up to 6 different profiles with content restrictions. They also introduced Kids profiles, where only films and shows that are appropriate for kids under age 12 will be available. Amazon also made changes to their online shopping platform, removing child sex abuse dolls and even adult sex dolls, although blow up dolls and torsos remain.  

EBSCO 

EBSCO Information Services offers online library resources to public and private schools (K–12), colleges and universities, public libraries, and more—but they also provide easy access to pornography and other extremely graphic sexual content. After we sent them a letter detailing the evidence of this material, EBSCO removed those instances from their databases. And now, more state legislatures are considering bills related to these research databases that would ensure graphic material is not passing through for children to access.

Advocacy Doesn’t End with the Dirty Dozen List

NCOSE’s corporate advocacy doesn’t end with the Dirty Dozen List.

In fact, we are engaging in advocacy efforts with corporations and entities all over the world through other campaigns or direct advocacy, even if they never make it to the official list. And many of our corporate campaigns are ongoing, so even if you don’t see a particular company on the Dirty Dozen List one year, we are still working to ensure all corporations know the harms happening on their platforms and advise them on how to fix it.

Here are a few of the changes you made possible this past year that weren’t on the 2021 Dirty Dozen List, but that are were part of current or previous advocacy efforts: 

  • As of March 2, 2022, Roku is now banning private pornography channels—including Pornhub.  
  • Instagram announced new changes this year such as updated parental control options, requiring age-verification upon account creation, and critical updates to minor safety. This included blocking the ability of unconnected adults to direct message minor accounts and sending warning messages to teens if an adult they are talking to is acting 
  • Massage Envy is now subject to a new federal bill that would require companies to remove forced arbitration agreements for instances of sexual assault and harassment, one of the key changes NCOSE called for. We’ve also seen some evidence of policies changing (we walked into a Massage Envy and asked about their policies outright) on how the company handles sexual assault and employee training.  
  • YouTube rolled out a new content filtering option for preteens and young teenagers to bridge the gap between YouTube Kids and the regular platform, something NCOSE specifically asked for in our engagement with the company.  
  • The latest Apple iOS 15.2 update includes an opt-in feature for minors on Family Sharing that automatically blurs sexually explicit images in iMessage, and sends warnings and resources if a teen sends or receives such content.  
  • Comcast removed all MindGeek material from transactional cable systems and ceased distribution of MindGeek’s SVOD services.  
  • Financial services continue to take a stand against the commercial sex industry: 
    • Mastercard recommitted to holding new “adult content” policies in place and confirmed the policy would apply to OnlyFans. They released new enhanced measures banks must follow when working with pornography “merchants,” which went into effect on October 15, 2021. News reports, online chatter, and conversations with our contacts confirmed that many porn sites were cut off from banks because they could not meet the requirements. 
    • PayPal is no longer available on XVideo’s Traffic Factory or MindGeek’s TrafficJunky. 
    • American Express confirmed they are no longer facilitating payments for Teen Fidelity.

Corporations Are Listening and Changing

We couldn’t have accomplished this incredible progress without you, the relentless work of key allies, principled policymakers, tenacious journalists, and other passionate advocates. These factors, combined with NCOSE efforts, resulted in more than 22,000 emails and/or signed petitions calling on corporations to do better in 2021, and these companies are clearly listening!  

Your advocacy has fostered incredible change—new legislation drafted, safety policies and features introduced, and the global recognition of these issues increased. There still much work to be done (including with many of the corporations listed above)—but working together with you we’re confident we can bring about a world truly free from all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Join Us In Action with the 2022 Dirty Dozen List

We hope you join us for a whole new year of exciting advocacy and change by taking action via the 2022 Dirty Dozen List. Together, we are creating a world where all can live and love without sexual abuse and exploitation.

We're seeing corporations make meaningful change to #ProtectKidsOnline because of the #DirtyDozenList… Will you join in and take action? Click To Tweet
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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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