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Prostasia Microgrants

Prostasia Foundation is happy to announce the launch of its first call for application for its Microgrants program 2021, allocating a total of $2000 to fund up to four small projects.


These microgrants aim to support individuals and organizations working on gender and sexuality issues, Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), human and civil rights, and sex positivity. We especially welcome applications from individuals/groups that usually lack access to funding.


Some examples of what the Prostasia Microgrants will fund:

  Projects that relate to surviving, preventing, or educating the public about CSA or that promote consent or other concepts that support healthy sexuality for teens and young adults
  Advocacy campaigns in support of the above goals
  Publications and documentation
  Small events (especially virtual ones)
  Art (photography, documentary, illustration, etc.)
  Citizen journalism
  Virtual conference participation
  Purchase of small items such as films, stationery, disposable cameras (if related), etc.

The call is open from April 1 until May 30, 2021. Please spread the word! You can read more and apply below.

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Webinar notes

The Future of Europe's Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse
March 15, 2021

As we reported last month, the European Commission is presently accepting submissions to a consultation on Fighting child sexual abuse: detection, removal and reporting of illegal content online. On March 15, we brought together Member of the European Parliament Patrick Breyer, Internet Infrastructure Coalition Chairman Christian Dawson, and clinical psychologist and researcher Crystal Mundy, to discuss the child protection and the civil liberties issues at stake.

From top to bottom: Jeremy Malcolm, Crystal Mundy, Christian Dawson, and Patrick Breyer

First to speak was Patrick Breyer MEP, from the German Pirate Party, who highlighted that the European Commission's plans could make the indiscriminate scanning of messages—perhaps even encrypted messages—mandatory for platforms operating in the European Union. This cannot be reconciled with the ruling in the La Quadrature du Net case of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which affirmed that state authorities are not allowed to intercept personal data in bulk.


But even if scanning was not made mandatory, Dr Breyer raised concerns about how scanning for evidence of child sexual abuse can misfire. He stated that about 40% of child pornography or CSAM investigations in Germany are targeted at minors. Platforms used for sexting do not clearly disclose that private communications might be scanned. When scanning results in a suspected match, private images can end up in the hands of tech company employees, where they don't belong and are not safe.


Rather than increasing our reliance on indiscriminate scanning, Dr Breyer recommended that more priority should be given to targeted investigations of existing abuse reports, of which there is a significant backlog, as well as to prevention efforts and assistance to victims.


Christian Dawson, who spoke next, outlined the three alternative broad proposals for legislation that the European Commission had laid out. First would be a continuation and strengthening of the existing voluntary regime for CSAM scanning and reporting. This option was favored by the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, and was thought to be the only feasible alternative for providers of cloud services.


The second proposal would make scanning for existing CSAM mandatory, while authorizing platforms to also voluntarily use AI algorithms to attempt to identify new, never-before-seen CSAM images, and instances of attempted grooming of children for sexual purposes. The third proposal would make it mandatory to scan for all three of these types of content.


Dawson explained why neither of these proposals were technically feasible for cloud service providers. They do not have access to much of the content that would be required to be scanned and reported—especially not over encrypted services—and even if they did, the use of AI algorithms is not scalable to the level that would be required to scan all European Internet communications.


He also mentioned that one of the obstacles to the use of AI to identify new CSAM images is that it is illegal for platforms to retain possession of such images for the purpose of training these systems. Under current technology, the only reliable and scalable method available for identifying CSAM is reference to databases of hashes (digital fingerprints) of already identified illegal images.


Crystal Mundy, who spoke next, addressed a separate topic raised by the consultation: apart from changes to the CSAM scanning regime, Europe is also considering establishing a new European center to counter child sexual abuse, which could have a role in promoting the prevention of CSA and in providing services to victims.


She pointed out the success of prevention programs depends upon understanding that there are important differences between people who offend, and that there is an overlap between offenders and victims. For example, she stressed that not all CSA offenders have pedophilia, and that assuming otherwise can impede us from preventing offending by those who don't have a sexual motivation for doing so.


She explained that a public health approach involves identifying risk factors and protective factors, and working to minimize the former while strengthening the latter. A common trap is to approach prevention in a way that stigmatizes either survivors or those who offend or are at risk of doing so: doing this simply means that people who are at risk won’t engage with support services. As such, organizations that provide stigma-free support to at-risk populations play an important role.


On the other hand, there are some popular approaches to dealing with child sexual abuse that we know don't work. Sex offense registries, and probation conditions that limit the ability of those who have offended to maintain residency and employment, are examples of these misplaced approaches. Such approaches actually make it more likely that people will offend again.


She acknowledged the difficulty of convincing the public that rehabilitation and prevention efforts are worthwhile. Even so, she stressed that a heavy focus on the sexuality of people who may offend drives them away, and stated that we have to see these people as human and support their mental wellbeing, if we truly wish to minimize the risk factors that drive offending. Listening to experts is an important first step for the European Commission before it can move on to the wide implementation of prevention strategies.


Prostasia's Jeremy Malcolm concluded the session (slides here) by giving some background to the push for Internet platforms to use artificial intelligence algorithms to attempt to identify new CSAM images and grooming. A notable signal of this was the inclusion of recommendations that platforms use these technologies, in a set of recommendations issued by the Five Eyes governments in March 2020. The current European Commission consultation could see these voluntary recommendations hardening into law.


As Jeremy pointed out however, AI technologies are far from ready to be used as a standard tool in CSAM elimination, due to their poor accuracy and the fact that when they misfire, this lands most heavily on marginalized groups. As such, Prostasia Foundation recommends that if CSAM scanning is to be legalized by the European Union, this should be limited to known CSAM images only, and the system should be made more accountable and transparent.


Prostasia also recommends that more attention be given to the prevention mission of the proposed new European center, and that if this is to happen, it will be careful to guard against its capture by law enforcement interests. Reducing the stigma that surrounds the topic of child sexual abuse and its prevention will be a key component of delivering on the potential of the European center to help prevent abuse and support survivors.


Submissions to the European Commission consultation remain open until April 15.

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Research into the topic of child sexual abuse prevention is indispensable to the fight against child sexual abuse. Interest in such research has increased since the European Commission picked it up as a thread of its future strategy in the fight against child sexual abuse (which is in turn the subject of a current European Commission consultation, as reported elsewhere in this newsletter).


For those who are newly interested in the topic of child sexual abuse prevention, fortunately Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children by Michael Seto is written with you in mind. It summarizes the state of research in a number of scientific disciplines that relate to this stigmatized topic, and doesn't assume any advanced scientific knowledge.


As someone who is himself relatively new to this field, one of the first benefits that I gained from this book was a deeper understanding of the factors that can lead someone towards abusing a child. Although it is commonly supposed that being sexually attracted to children is the only important factor, Seto points out that this:


is not in and of itself a sufficient factor without antisociality (which is expected to be lower for those who self-refer) and opportunity.


Self-referral to support services, including peer support services such as our own MAP Support Club, is identified as possibly "a useful part of the response to pedophilia and sexual offending against children." However, Seto acknowledges that:


[S]tigma may prevent many individuals from seeking help, thereby unintentionally increasing the likelihood that some individuals will act on their sexual interests and commit sexual offenses.


This is a theme to which Seto returns frequently, noting for example how stigma impedes school-based primary prevention interventions:


Primary prevention of sexual abuse through school-based interventions is challenging because of the tremendous reluctance to acknowledge the problem—from parents, administrators, and teachers—or even [to] talk about sex with children…


On the other hand he also expresses concern about the difficulty of countering our deeply-ingrained discomfort with the idea of destigmatizing mental health conditions that are associated with child sexual abuse:


Even if one has little or no sympathy for the affected individual, remember that this attitude can put children at risk because the stress of being a sexual minority can exacerbate factors known to be associated with the risk of sexual offending, including emotional dysregulation and social-interpersonal problems…


Not all responsibility for prevention is placed upon interventions with potential perpetrators. Seto in fact concludes his chapter on prevention with a call for:


bystanders to intervene and target situational factors that increase the risk of sexual offending (situational crime prevention): effective parental supervision, guardianship of responsible adults, and school-based education for children, especially vulnerable children.


Prevention is just one chapter of this book—fittingly the final chapter, since it both informs, and is informed by, every other chapter in the book. About half of the book discusses pedophilia—its definition, assessment, approaches to its study, explanations, and etiology (development). The book also devotes a separate chapter to the understudied topic of incest. It then covers the diverse field of risk assessment, covering a variety of tools that are being used today in the criminal justice system. Before moving on to prevention, the book talks about the treatment of those who have sexually offended against children, and provides some revealing information about the effectiveness of those treatments.


Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children is a highly respected standard academic text in its field. Already widely cited by criminologists, psychologists, and social workers, the book is equally accessible to those working in any other field that requires an understanding of the current state of scientific knowledge about child sexual abuse and its prevention. As policymakers are increasingly turning to experts for advice on this topic, this pioneering work has become more relevant than ever.

ASAP 4th International Workshop
Tampa, Florida
May 3, 2021

Keynote speaker: David Prescott

Prostasia Foundation is proud to support the Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP)'s 4th International Workshop, which this year is on "Effective treatment methodologies for non-offending pedophiles and consequent benefits to society."


Prostasia's Executive Director will be present to speak about our research into sexual outlets and their effects on child sexual abuse, the struggle to shift society's approach towards evidence-based laws and policies rather than morality laws, and our ongoing work to strengthen and improve MAP Support Club.


We will be joined by Keynote speaker David Prescott—who was the very first guest on our podcast—and by presenters from B4UAct and ASAP. Continuing Education credits are available for an extra charge.


To win free tickets to this event, write to us with a single paragraph to explain what you would hope to gain from attending. Both students and professionals are eligible and no purchase is necessary. We will notify the three successful applicants by April 10.

Register now
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