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Federal authorities launching child sex exploitation awareness campaign

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is launching a national awareness campaign aimed at educating the public about the threat of child sex exploitation and preventing crimes from occurring, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

The initiative, called Know2Protect, is what DHS described as a “first-of-its-kind” campaign that brings together public and private sector companies to deliver resources to young people, parents, community leaders and educators where they spend the most time.

DHS has included several high-profile partners in the effort, including tech companies like Google, Meta, Snap, Intel and Roblox; sports league partners like Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NASCAR, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee;  youth-serving organizations like Boy Scouts of America and the National Police Athletic League and various law enforcement associations.

“All of us, working together, must protect our children from the heinous and growing crime of online child sexual exploitation and abuse,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “The tragic reality is that, as young people spend more time online, predators around the world increasingly target them through manipulation and deceit.”

The campaign’s website launched Wednesday and is being advertised in 25 media markets and online through digital and physical billboards throughout the country. DHS said in its release that the campaign will reach millions of Americans and disseminate resources to educate the public about sex exploitation and provide resources to report potential abuse.

“The best way to keep kids safe online is to provide helpful information where they are: on social media and online gaming platforms, and through clubs, sporting events, and organizations,” Know2Protect Campaign Director Kate Kennedy said in the press release. “By partnering with a range of companies to raise awareness and disseminate educational messaging, we are keeping kids safe from online predators.”

Google will donate ad credits for Google display, YouTube, and Google Search, which DHS said will “bolster the reach of the campaign.” Meta will also promote the campaign on Facebook and Instagram.

Roblox will display in-game billboard ads with helpful tips for internet safety and best practices. DHS said Roblox will partner with the campaign to develop “in-game immersive experiences,” including building characters and gaining badges backed by the campaign, per the release.

Snap will also provide in-platform ad credits and will conduct research to gauge Snapchat users’ awareness with various online risks. The Know2Protect website will be promoted on Snap’s online Privacy and Safety and Parents Hubs, DHS said.

Various sports league partners will display promotional material for the campaign during games and races.

The campaign comes amid heightened concern about child sex exploitation and abuse. There were more than 36 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation in 2023, which DHS reported is twice what it was in 2019. It is also a 360 percent increase from 10 years ago.

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