Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE
Washington, DC – On July 9, The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with twelve senators and a packed room on the topic of “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World” in order to talk about the predatory targeting, grooming, sex trafficking, hardcore pornography, and more that makes up the experience of so many young users of platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation submitted written testimony, including screenshots of proof, for this hearing.
“The age of abandoning parents to alone navigate child protection in the digital age is coming to a close,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). “On popular apps like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and more, children are routinely groomed for sexual abuse, child pornography, sexual extortion, and even sex trafficking. Tragically, I recently met with several 15 year old girls in DC who were sex trafficked through Instagram. The experience of most young users on these platforms includes exposure to hardcore pornography, messages from strangers soliciting sex acts, and relentless sexual harassment. It’s time for a larger conversation and to hold technology companies accountable for creating safe spaces for minors. The problem is too vast for parents to handle alone, and too many children without stable families will be left vulnerable until these companies take a more proactive approach to protection.”
“Congressional leadership is urgently needed to hold technology companies accountable for developing solutions to these complex problems created by their platforms. Solutions like an independent app ratings board, default settings based on the age of the user, or updating the Children’s Online Protection Act or the Children’s Internet Protection Act, or a Congressional study on these issues would significantly help in creating a safer online world for kids in America. We would like to especially thank Chairman Graham, who noted that default settings for devices based on a user’s age need to become a reality,” concluded Hawkins.
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