Author Archives: Kristie Canegallo

Our efforts to fight child sexual abuse online

Across Google and YouTube, we are always working to protect our users from harmful content, especially the kind of horrific, illegal content referred to as child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Since our earliest days, we’ve been committed to fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse both on our platforms and in the broader online ecosystem. We have invested in the teams, tools, and resources to deter, remove, and report this kind of content, and to help other companies do so. But we know this issue cannot be solved by any one company alone, and we’re committed to tackling it with others in our industry and partners who are dedicated to protecting children around the world. Today, we’re sharing more information about our work, including new efforts to combat this abuse, and how we’re supporting organizations that are committed to protecting kids online.

How we identify and remove CSAM

We identify and report CSAM with a combination of specialized, trained teams of people and cutting-edge technology. We use both hash-matching software like CSAI Match (a technology developed by YouTube engineers to identify re-uploads of previously identified child sexual abuse in videos) and machine learning classifiers that can identify never-before-seen CSAM imagery. These tools allow us to proactively scan our platforms for potential CSAM and identify potentially abusive content so that it can be removed and reported — and the corresponding accounts disabled — as quickly as possible. A crucial part of our efforts to tackle this kind of abuse is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the U.S.-based reporting center for CSAM. NCMEC tracks reports from platforms and individuals and then sends those reports to law enforcement agencies around the world.

New insights into our work to fight CSAM

We recently launched a new transparency report on Google’s Efforts to Combat Online Child Sexual Abuse Material, where we detail the number of reports we made to NCMEC in the first and second half of 2020. The report also provides data around our efforts on YouTube, how we detect and remove CSAM results from Google Search, and how many accounts are disabled for CSAM violations across our services. We also include information on the number of “hashes” of newly identified CSAM we share with NCMEC. These hashes (unique digital fingerprints) help other platforms identify CSAM automatically at scale. Contributing to the NCMEC hash database is one of the most important ways we, and others in the industry, can help in the effort to combat CSAM because it helps reduce the recirculation of this material and the associated re-victimization of children who have been abused.

Working to combat CSAM across the internet

Because CSAM is an issue that spans beyond any one platform, in 2018 we developed and launched the Content Safety API. Using AI classifiers we built for our own products, the API helps organizations classify and prioritize the most likely CSAM content for review. Today, the API is being used by NGOs like SaferNet Brazil and companies including Facebook and Yubo. Along with CSAI Match, these tools are offered free-of-charge for qualifying organizations and companies. In 2020, the Content Safety API was used by our partners to classify more than 2 billion images, helping them identify the small fraction of violative content faster and with more precision. We encourage organizations who are interested to apply to use CSAI Match or Content Safety API. 

For many years, we’ve had dedicated teams working to prevent access to CSAM on by de-indexing and reporting illegal sites and filtering autocompletes for search terms associated with CSAM. Last summer, we redesigned and expanded a feature we’ve been running since 2013 where users who enter CSAM-related queries are shown a prominent message that CSAM is illegal and instructions on how to report this content to their local authorities. We also provide information about local resources to connect users with NGOs that support children or families who may have been victims of abuse. We’re already seeing an impact from these efforts: hundreds of thousands of users each month are clicking through to the reporting hotlines we surface, including the Internet Watch Foundation in the UK, the Canadian Center for Child Protection and Te Protejo in Colombia. And, crucially, we’ve seen when these warning boxes are shown, we’re less likely to see follow-up searches seeking similar material. We will be expanding this feature over the course of this year. 

Supporting organizations to fight CSAM globally

The scale and complexity of fighting CSAM online means we must take a global and multi-stakeholder approach. That’s why we’re working together across industry and with leading child safety organizations like the WeProtect Global Alliance, Thorn, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. And we continue to work to empower and support organizations that are creating real and lasting change for children. For example, we’ve funded a three-year Google Fellow at NCMEC to modernize and integrate their systems. We’ve also extended our Ad Grants program to qualifying child protection nonprofits during the pandemic, providing funding and campaign help for organizations like the INHOPE hotline network and ECPAT International. Since 2003, we’ve given almost $90 million in Ad Grants to global child protection organizations. We also supported the Five Country Ministerial Forum Voluntary Principles to Counter Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and collaborated across industry to produce a practical guide for companies considering applying these principles. This builds on our work on Project Protect as part of the Technology Coalition

Working together, we can make meaningful progress in the global fight against CSAM.

Online resources for kids and families during COVID-19

As families continue to face the new realities of juggling work, school, and play at home, online tools can make the adjustment a bit smoother. We’re all spending more of our time on our devices, and Google has many products and programs to help families create healthy digital habits and help them stay safe online. From internet safety resources to parental controls, our products help families find and manage quality content and apps, tools for distance learning and virtual field trips. And behind the scenes, our teams work every day to protect our users and make our products safer for everyone.

Helping families and educators with distance learning resources 

Families and educators are relying on digital platforms to provide access to online learning and educational tools during COVID-19. Our G Suite for Education tools can be used from any device and help more than 120 million teachers and students around the world work and learn together. To support distance learning, Google is offering premium Meet video conferencing features free for schools through September 30, 2020. 

In March, we launched a new Teach from Home hub for teachers with information and resources so that they can keep teaching, even as many schools closed due to COVID-19. This hub includes tutorials, step-by-step guides, and inspiration for distance learning during school closures.

Our teams are working to provide opportunities for families to learn together at home, including the new YouTube Learn at Home families site, virtual field trips and explorations through Google Arts & Culture, and the global roll-out of our AI-enabled reading app, Read Along

We created a dedicated Distance Learning Fund through to help educators and parents access tools and resources needed to provide learning opportunities for students. The Fund supports Khan Academy, Wide Open Schools by Common Sense Media, and DonorsChoose.

Helping families discover quality content for kids

Even outside school hours and virtual classrooms, kids are spending more time online so we’re helping parents find quality, age-appropriate content. The new Kids tab on Google Play makes it easier for parents to find enriching and engaging apps for their children. Teacher Approved apps must meet Play’s Designed for Families security and privacy requirements, and are reviewed and curated by teachers to identify fun and inspiring apps kids will love, with or without an educational focus. The Teacher Approved program launched in the U.S. in early April, and will be rolling out globally later in the year.  

YouTube Kids

offers a more contained environment for kids to explore their interests and curiosity. The app empowers parents to customize their child’s experience, including the content available to watch and how long they can use the app. Kids can access a range of helpful playlists on YouTube Kids right now, such as Healthy Habits, Learning and Indoor Activities. YouTube Kids is available in 79 countries on desktop, mobile and Smart TVs.

Teaching kids how to be safe online and build healthy tech habits

We’ve continued to help families navigate technology, from helping parents set digital ground rules to providing resources for teaching kids how to be safer online.

The Family Link app from Google helps parents create healthy habits for their child or teen as they learn, play, and explore online. Parents can keep an eye on screen time with daily limits and a bedtime on Android and Chromebook devices. They can also help guide their child to better content with download approvals, per-app time limits and content filters. And SafeSearch is on by default for supervised child accounts, helping to filter explicit search results. 

Be Internet Awesome teaches kids about digital literacy and online safety. The program offers free resources for educators and families to learn about these topics with a family guide and pledge, online safety coloring book, and simple online tips. The program features an interactive game, Interland, that reinforces internet safety concepts for kids in a fun and engaging way. It’s available globally in over 28 countries and 15 languages.

We’ve also partnered with other tech companies and The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (EVAC) to create a Public Service Announcement that helps parents keep their children safe online across platforms by providing resources on how to talk to kids about online risks, stay involved in their digital world, know who they’re connecting with, and use privacy and security settings. EVAC’s site dedicated to these resources includes information on how to block and report suspicious individuals to Google and other tech companies. We’re also working with industry partners, child protection nonprofits, and experts on other initiatives to improve child safety across the broader digital ecosystem. 

Online classes, quality content, and collaboration tools are important ways to stay connected from home, and we’re proud of the work our Security and Trust & Safety teams do to ensure families can enjoy these, and all Google products, more safely.

Supporting the 2020 U.S. election

The 2020 election season officially kicks off with the Iowa caucuses today. Building on our work to support the operations and security of the 2020 U.S. Census, we’re sharing more about what we’re doing to tackle abuse on our platforms, equip campaigns, and help voters. 

Tackling threats and abuse

Our Trust and Safety teams span the globe to monitor and disrupt account hijackings, inauthentic activity, disinformation campaigns, coordinated attacks, and other forms of abuse on our platforms on a 24/7 basis. We take seriously our responsibility to protect our users from harm and abuse, especially during elections. 

That’s why we’ve developed policies that prohibit deceptive practices and abuse such as voter suppression and misrepresentation in our products, including Google Ads, YouTube or Google Play. For example, Google Play has implemented new policies to mitigate misleading claims and promote transparency about the sources of government information including voting information communicated through apps. We work together withJigsaw to advance research on“deep fake” detection—and protect the accounts of users and campaigns that are targeted by hacking or phishing. Every day, Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails and Google Safe Browsing helps protect more than 4 billion devices against dangerous sites. 

As part of our ongoing efforts to counter interference on our platforms, we work closely with other technology companies and government agencies, such as the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, on referrals and leads. Alongside my colleagues at Google’s Threat Analysis Group, and at YouTube, we work closely to identify bad actors, disable their accounts, warn our users about them, and share relevant information with industry officials and law enforcement. We will continue to provide updates with findings around state-sponsored phishing attacks, coordinated influence operations, and disinformation campaigns. 

Equipping campaigns

As we approach November’s election, we’ll continue to educate campaigns and elected officials on how they can effectively use Google and YouTube products to reach voters. Candidates can claim their knowledge panels so people have access to quality, authoritative information right in Google Search. And we work with them to optimize their presence on YouTube by helping them get verified and more effectively engage with voters through YouTube. 

Additionally, we’re committed to enhancing election security for campaigns, voters and journalists alike. We created Protect Your Election, a suite of free tools to help protect high-risk users from the most pervasive digital attacks, like DDoS and phishing attacks (to which politicians, journalists, and campaigns are often most vulnerable). Our Advanced Protection Program and Jigsaw’s Project Shield help combat the types of digital attacks that could threaten account and web-site security. 

As part of these efforts, we’re supporting the new Election Security and Information Project, run out of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School. Last week, the trainers kicked off the first of many election security training sessions that will take place in every state across the country. This nonpartisan program is designed to help campaigns, academics, elected officials and NGOs prepare for election-related security challenges between now and November. 

Helping voters

Whether you’re registering for the first time, looking for your polling place, or voting absentee, we want to help you navigate the process. For years, we've worked with trusted organizations and built tools into Google Search to do just that—to provide you with authoritative and objective information in a completely neutral way. Our systems are designed to elevate authoritative content when people seek information about topics such as elections or candidates. We do this not only for users directly on our own platform, but also by supporting the civic technology ecosystem through products like the Google Civic Information API. These products allow third-party developers to create useful applications to help people find information, for instance, about where to vote. 

As the election season unfolds, you can tune into YouTube to watch political events and follow debate livestreams. Over the past few years, YouTube has invested in the teams and systems to raise up quality content, such as prioritizing authoritative voices in search results for news and topics prone to misinformation. 

And for the 2020 elections, you can search for political ads with more visibility than ever before: you’ll be able to see more types of ads in our Political Ads Transparency Report and Ad Library, including ads that mention federal or state-level candidates, officeholders, ballot measures and political parties. As you may have seen, we recently announced changes to our global political ads policies that expand verification and transparency measures to ads that mention state-level candidates and officeholders, ballot measures, and political parties. 

We will continue our work across Google and YouTube to tackle abuse on our platforms and help you navigate the democratic process before you head to the ballot box on November 3. 

How Google and YouTube are working to protect the 2020 U.S. Census

Next year, as it has done every decade since 1790, the U.S. will carry out its constitutional duty to count the population of the United States. In 2020, for the first time, the census will offer individuals the option of completing the census online, in addition to completing it by mail or phone. With over 70 percent of U.S. households using the internet at home, and 80 percent using smartphones, this new format will allow more people to participate in the census next year. 

Yesterday, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and 41 of their Senate colleagues introduced a bipartisan resolution to ensure the census count is fair and accurate, and to urge participation by everyone, and Google is a strong supporter of the resolution.

To support the new online option, we’re working to connect people with useful and high-quality information about the census.  Building upon our ongoing work to protect the integrity of information and civic processes, this past March we established our 2020 U.S. Census Taskforce, a team to support the operations and security of the 2020 Census across Google and YouTube. Its primary objective is to prevent bad actors from abusing our services to spread misinformation, or to conduct fraudulent activity around the census such as phishing or other scams. We’ll provide regular updates on our efforts to the Census Bureau and other relevant organizations. Here's a look at some of the work we're doing on this front.

YouTube policies

YouTube expanded its existing deceptive practices policy to explicitly cover the census process. Videos and comments that aim to misinform viewers about the time, means or eligibility requirements for participating in the census are not allowed on YouTube.

Policies for ads on our platforms

Our policies already prohibit ads that contain misleading uses of official government sites or agency names, or attempt to mimic the layout and design of an official government agency site. Last month we clarified this policy to explicitly prohibit ads featuring incorrect information about how to participate in the census.  

Security protections for Gmail and Chrome

Every day, Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails and Google Safe Browsing helps protect more than 4 billion devices against dangerous sites. Our team is working to ensure that legitimate emails from the Census Bureau are delivered, and to block phishing attempts (such as attempts to drive users to fake census websites, or to hand over personal information or account information). Security tools like Safe Browsing in Chrome are turned on by default, and can warn people of compromised sites related to the census.

Access to authoritative information on Search

Search is designed to surface relevant results from the most authoritative sources available. As part of our efforts to tackle disinformation and stay ahead of the malicious actors that propagate it, we’re improving our systems and elevating authoritative information, particularly for important areas like civics and news.

Engagement with partner organizations

We’ll share actionable information with other companies, law enforcement and the U.S. Census Bureau to help investigate, identify and resolve relevant issues. The U.S. Census Bureau is joining the YouTube Trusted Flagger program so it can augment our efforts by quickly notifying YouTube of census-related content that violates our policies. 

Transparency for government information on Play

To promote transparency about the sources of government information communicated through apps on the Google Play Store, a recent policy update now requires apps that communicate government information but are not affiliated with a government entity to provide users the source(s) of this information. Census partners will need to provide the sources of any census related information they provide in their app and make clear the nature of their relationship with the census.

As other countries make a similar shift to an online census, we hope the work we’re doing for the 2020 Census in the United States will be a strong foundation on which to build.

You can learn more about the count by visiting the U.S. Census Bureau’s official website.