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  • Dr. Joan Irvine

Navigating the Landscape of Online Child Protection



Navigating the Landscape of Online Child Protection A Two-Decade Journey


I worked for nearly two decades in online child protection technology, starting in 2002 I spearheaded the development of the Restricted to Adults (RTA) website label in 2008.


The inclusion of the RTA label in website metadata – for FREE - coupled with the use of various FREE parental control applications, became a powerful tool in preventing children from accessing age-inappropriate content. The significance of RTA was acknowledged through several awards, including a Congressional Commendation from Representative Jane Harman, as showcased on our awards page - https://www.asacp.org/page.php?content=awards .


Our funding source - the adult entertainment industry - raised eyebrows. However, our mission remained crystal clear: to establish a collaborative approach where both the industry and parents shared the responsibility of shielding children.

Governments and 'reputable' companies were quick to deflect blame for child exploration issues onto the adult entertainment industry. The vast difference in resources between our modest association of five staff and tech giants, with their thousands of employees always baffled me why they couldn’t do more.


One vivid memory stands out - a meeting at the headquarters of a major search engine company. Armed with a 2-inch thick printout of search results featuring known child pornography terms, I presented this compelling evidence. These terms should have triggered immediate blocks, ensuring no advertisements or search results appeared on the same page. However, the clash between child protection, revenue models, growth strategies, and legal liability highlighted the intricate balance these companies needed to strike for profitability.


As the years passed and hundreds of thousands of children fell victim to abuse, a pressing question remained: why did it take over two decades for governments to hold these tech companies accountable? Was it linked to tax revenues and jobs?

The answer to this question delves into the complex interplay between technological advancements, corporate interests, and societal expectations. While tech companies must undoubtedly be held responsible for safeguarding the online environment, we must also acknowledge the shared responsibility parents bear in monitoring and regulating their children's internet access.


Achieving this balance in the digital age is CRUCIAL!!!

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