Statement on Stanford Internet Observatory’s event on Apple’s Child-Safety Photo Scanning

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

Looking at the speakers of Stanford Internet Observatory’s “panel of speakers presenting views on new products and services intended to protect children in encrypted spaces”, we see that the same actors and the same conversation have once again come up with the same answers. The structure of this conversation remains the same: the prioritization of corporate liability, the assumptions that pushing CSAM into less visible places is the same as reducing child abuse, the assumptions that pushing people off the most visible platforms means addressing the issue, and the assumptions that home is a safe place for children when we know that the majority of trafficking into sexual exploitation for the youngest children is overwhelmingly familial. We have reached the place where public comments on pre-drafted policies from marginalized people long after decisions are made is treated as accountability and engagement. 

We appreciate that the ACLU and CDT have been brought into this conversation. Questions of democracy and civil liberties are central to moving forward. But the expectations that these groups either represent or cede time to the many diverse groups who will be impacted by these policies is unfair and disrespectful to everyone involved. We should not be reliant on the generosity of these groups to cede time, and we should not pretend that this is the same as actually engaging marginalized communities.

ACLU and CDT have important, valid missions. But speaking about democracy is not the same thing as speaking to people who are criminalized and/or vulnerable. Civil liberties shouldn’t have to cede space to offer diversity to these conversations for the full ramifications of these policies, and creating adversarial relationships at the table among groups fighting for space is a foundational tactic of oppression. Further, organizations are not people. Organizations do not have to adapt the same way to these policies to organize and share information safely when a policy forces a community off platforms and makes them scramble to re-connect. Organizations without personal vulnerability do not have to figure out how to protect their identities when being vocal. Organizations can consider filing impact litigation, not being the central, personal face of it. Having organizations that focus on democracy, civil rights, and first amendment issues is not the same as having the communities present who are impacted by these policies.

These policies will predominantly harm the people who need access to more spaces, not fewer. Yes, that means sex workers. That also means queer and trans youth seeking information on their bodies, lives and community, or young people, and anyone in Texas, who are scrambling to find safe and accurate information on accessing abortion care. That also means young people trying to disclose information to a safe person about potential abuse going on in the home. 

Like similar policies that have been passed without community feedback, these policies will actually increase harm to the communities they purport to protect. To have these conversations without platforming impacted communities is merely a facade of accountability.


Hacking//Hustling and Reframe Health and Justice

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