Sex Trafficking Survivor to Speak at Annual Shareholder Meeting
MENLO PARK, Calif., May 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — At the Meta shareholder meeting on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, shareholders will vote on a resolution asking the company to report on how its plans for end-to-end encryption will affect efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation. Sarah Cooper, a child sex-trafficking survivor and founding member of the Brave Movement, will speak at the meeting on behalf of the resolution. Ms. Cooper was groomed as a teenager through Facebook Messenger, met a predator in Boston, and was sold into sex slavery.
In 2021 there were nearly 29 million reported cases of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Nearly 27 million of these—or 92%—stemmed from Meta platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. Governments, law enforcement agencies, and child protection organizations have harshly criticized Meta’s planned end-to-end encryption, claiming that it will cloak the actions of child predators and make children more vulnerable to online sexual abuse. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that Meta’s plan to apply end-to-end encryption to its platforms, without first putting safety measures in place to stop CSAM, could effectively make invisible 70% of its CSAM incidents that are currently being detected and reported.
The link between child sexual abuse and the Internet is even more evident given the significant increase in social media use globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a huge surge in CSAM. The number of Meta’s CSAM reports increased 69% from its nearly 16 million reports in 2019, when shareholders first raised this issue with the company.
“As the world’s largest social media platform, there is no company more central to the exponential growth of online child sexual exploitation than Meta. Its actions will, for better or worse, have a major impact on global child safety,” said Michael Passoff, CEO of Proxy Impact. “Attempts to regulate social media always focus on the need to protect children. Recent legislation in the U.S., U.K., and European Union now presents significant legal liability for companies that fail to address online child sexual abuse.”
Sarah Cooper, founding member of the Brave Movement and a member of the survivor council of ECPAT-USA, is a survivor of child sexual abuse through Facebook Messenger, and now educates others about just how dangerous Facebook can be to children. “I was groomed on Facebook by an older man who pretended to be a teenager. Kids don’t understand the full implication of sharing sexual materials online. The main responsibility for safety of children from predators using online platforms should not lie with the child or with the parent, but with the social media provider itself. Only they have the tools, the access, and the scope to provide a safe space for children. Now, Meta is making young people more vulnerable by planning to expand encryption across its platforms and pushing kids towards the already encrypted WhatsApp through advertising campaigns, before fully dealing with the lack of safety on their platforms. We ask members of the Facebook Board of Directors to talk directly with survivors to better understand this urgent issue, and form the basis of an ongoing collaboration. It’s time we turned the tide on child sexual exploitation and abuse online.”
In 2020, 79% of U.S. underage sex trafficking victims recruited online were recruited through Facebook or Instagram. A letter sent to Facebook by 120+ child protection organizations stated that Facebook’s encryption plan “presents an unacceptable risk to children, and would arguably make your services unsafe.”
The #BeBraveZuck Campaign was launched in April 2022 by the Brave Movement, to build on Sarah Cooper’s work with Meta shareholders and child safety organizations to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg accountable for the company’s role in facilitating online child sexual abuse.
This is the third year that the resolution will be put to a vote. It has the backing of the two largest proxy voting service providers—Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis. In 2021, the resolution received the support of nearly 980 million shares, representing about 56% of the non-management-controlled vote.
Meta’s response has been to defend its push towards end-to-end encryption as a choice between Internet privacy or child safety. Yet, tech experts point out that the technology exists to protect privacy while still allowing a search for CSAM in encrypted data.
“A company cannot claim to value Internet privacy and human rights without protecting child privacy and children’s rights as well,” said Lisette Cooper, a Meta shareholder and the mother of Sarah Cooper. “Shareholders are not being asked to choose between Internet privacy and child safety—both of these issues can be adequately addressed. Meta needs to redouble efforts on child safety by working with survivors of online sexual exploitation and child safety organizations to make their platforms safer for children. Strong child safety protections need to be in place before expanding end-to-end encryption to additional Meta platforms.”
Meta shareholders are encouraged to learn more about this issue. In addition, parents and teens can read or listen to Sarah Cooper’s story, and educate themselves about measures they can take to create a safe Internet environment for their children via BeInternetAwesome and The Family Online Safety Institute.
The shareholder resolution was filed by Proxy Impact on behalf of Lisette Cooper, an additional individual investor, and by members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.
Proxy Impact provides shareholder engagement and proxy voting services that promote sustainable and responsible business practices. For more information, visit www.proxyimpact.com.
Laura Simpson, [email protected]
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SOURCE Proxy Impact