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U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The Trump administration on Thursday announced an initiative with four other countries aimed at combatting the online sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

The big picture: The move comes in the form of a set of voluntary principles crafted in consultation with industry, suggesting the administration is still looking to work constructively with Big Tech on the issue, despite heated Washington rhetoric around using the law to compel firmer action.

Driving the news: U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said the other countries of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — will join the effort.

  • The officials announced 11 voluntary principles backed by tech companies meant to establish a baseline for companies to deter the use of the internet to exploit children.
  • They include proactively identifying material depicting or encouraging child sexual abuse and reporting it to law enforcement, as well as doing the same for exploitative behavior, such as using online platforms to groom minors.

Background: Barr highlighted the cooperation from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Snapchat and Roblox in crafting the principles.

  • Those companies are part of a broader Technology Coalition formed in 2006 to fight child sexual exploitation online.
“We stand behind these principles and will be working with our members to both spread awareness of them and redouble our efforts to bring industry together to promote transparency, share expertise and accelerate new technologies to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse.”
Technology Coalition joint statement.

Between the lines: The moves from the administration come as lawmakers seek to pressure tech companies to take more action against child exploitation online by threatening the industry's liability shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

  • The "EARN IT" Act from Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-NC) and Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) would condition some Section 230 protections on complying with best practices to prevent online child sexual exploitation.
  • Those best practices would be developed by a commission that includes the attorney general, leading some critics to fear Barr would condition 230 protections on law enforcement access to encrypted communications.

Go deeper

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

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