Your Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, I am deeply moved to see so many here today — to answer the urgent call to protect children all over the world from the criminals who use technology to harm, abuse and sexually exploit them.

I want to thank the African Union and the UK Government for their inspired leadership and support for this Summit and to all of the members of our WePROTECT Global Alliance who are working every day to stop this heinous crime and care for its victims.

Five years ago this month, we gathered for the first WePROTECT Global Summit at Lancaster House in London. The idea that led to the creation of WePROTECT was the recognition that the Internet was a positive force that was changing the way we lived our lives and interact with each other. Yet, the same technology was facilitating unprecedented new forms of sexual abuse crimes against children on a global scale.

The technology platforms that connected, inspired and empowered us were also enabling adults with a sexual interest in children to groom, abuse and document their sexual depravity in digital images and videos depicting these unspeakable crimes.

My own realisation of the scale and impact of online child sexual abuse reached a tipping point when in late 2012, I attended a fateful meeting that took my career down an entirely new path. I arrived at 10 Downing Street and was ushered into a private meeting with prime minister David Cameron. He was deeply troubled. He had just met with the grieving parents of April Jones, a little girl from South Wales who had been abducted, assaulted and brutally murdered. Evidence confirmed that her killer had become addicted to child sexual abuse material online. She was just five years old.

As a mother, it was an anguishing wake-up call and as a leader in the tech industry, I felt sick that we weren't doing more to police our systems and rid them of this violent and illegal material. Something had to change, and I knew that I was in a unique position to drive that change. A few weeks later, I left my post at Facebook to join the UK government, first as the digital adviser to the Prime Minister and then leading the online harms and crimes agenda as the first Minister for Internet Safety and Security.

In building and scaling some of the world's most innovative companies over 25 years, I have come to believe that technology was a force for good. But that belief was being challenged as I saw that same technology subverted for evil. The same principles of scale and ubiquity that make internet companies and their products so powerful were being leveraged to exploit and abuse children en masse. We were facing an epidemic of global proportions.

And, referring to this crime as an epidemic is an appropriate description. Imagine if children were being infected with a contagious disease at rates equal to the number of children being sexually exploited and abused online.  The world would undoubtedly be mobilising to contain the outbreak and protect more children from becoming ill. We would see national and global health organisations taking action — governments working together to save lives and doing everything in their power to stop the epidemic from spreading. So why should halting the epidemic of child abuse and exploitation online be any different?

It should not be.  We founded WePROTECT in 2014 to recognise the crisis we are facing and to unify a multi-stakeholder alliance to act in ways proportionate to the threat. Five years on, WePROTECT is a global movement with the mission to empower everyone with a responsibility to protect children online. We now have as members 90 countries and leading law enforcement agencies, 26 civil society organisations, and 22 technology companies many of whom are with us today. I am immensely proud of the work we have done, and yet, I cannot escape the feeling that the momentum of this crime is overtaking our capacity to stop it.

Reports of child sexual abuse material online have increased by 10,000% since 2004.  As of mid-2019, there were 46 million unique images of child sexual abuse in EUROPOL's repository alone. Last year, in the US, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 18.4 million referrals of child sexual abuse material by US technology companies. At any given time of day, according to academic experts, an estimated 750,000 offenders with sexual intent are looking to connect with children online across the globe.

The statistics paint a distressing picture, and many of you are intimately familiar with the heart-wrenching stories behind these numbers. Today, I am here to sound the alarm. I am here to ask you all to join in demanding that our children are protected.

The work we do at WePROTECT is a labour of love and passionate commitment. Our members and the organisations they represent have protected millions of children and brought tens of thousands of paedophiles and other criminals facilitating this crime, to justice. But unfortunately, during that same period, the crime we are all united to fight has become exponentially more prevalent, complex and sophisticated.

Offenders now use virtual private networks, peer-to-peer networks and Tor, to cover their tracks. The anonymity offered by the dark web emboldens them to produce and post their depraved abuse and violence acts towards children as young as newborns. It is utterly sickening.

In reference to the scale of this crime, academic research suggests that approximately 1% of the male population is predisposed to sexual interest in prepubescent children. Interpol estimates that there are likely to be approximately 1.8M more men in this category using the Internet now compared with a year ago.

If this challenge sounds multi-faceted and complicated, it's because it is.  As we stated in our Global Threat Assessment published in 2018, "technology is permitting offender communities to attain unprecedented levels of organisation, which in turn creates new and persistent threats as these individuals and groups exploit online 'safe havens' and 'on-demand access to victims".

That is why our members, armed with the Model National Response, are continually improving capabilities to detect and disrupt this crime. But we are struggling to keep pace with the accelerating rate of offences. If we don't take immediate and coordinated action, we risk losing this war and we put at risk a generation of young people who will be abused, coerced, and forced to participate in and witness things from which they may never recover.

Another troubling development that complicates the threat picture is that many young people are engaging in risky online behaviours such as sharing self-generated indecent images. There is a normalisation of this kind of sexual behaviour and it's becoming more pervasive among adolescents and teenagers.  And as exposure to hardcore online pornography becomes mainstream, there is a distortion of what is considered a normal sexual experience.

We have always known that young people are susceptible to influences where they are not monitored or supervised. But the influences they face daily in the apps and platforms they use have never been more pernicious. Today children are groomed by people they have never met and would never have come in contact with if it weren't for the devices in their pockets.

Just this past weekend, the third in a series of outstanding articles, published by Michael Keller and his colleagues at the New York Times, documented the extent of this problem. Predators are meeting young people through popular multi-player video games such as Minecraft and Fortnite. Gaining direct access to kids in the privacy of their homes and then exploiting and manipulating them with disastrous consequences. The cycle of abuse repeats as millions of more children are drawn into the vortex of coercion and exploitation by adults and in some cases, organised criminals.

So you might ask why is the global community not more outraged about this crisis?

Over the past five years, our world has been distracted by hyperpartisan politics, divisive narratives, and theatrical character politics acted out on Twitter. The conversation about regulating technology companies and limiting their sphere of influence has become a confused and partisan issue.  The scrutiny on big tech is happening across so many online harms and crimes that it is difficult for any policymaker or legislator to keep up.

Unregulated technology is colliding with societal norms and values.  It is threatening our privacy and security, altering our perception of truth and algorithmically amplifying hatred and extremism. The very communications platforms we've come to rely on as our digital lives have evolved now threaten safety, stability and the rule of law. With this as a backdrop, the global dialogue about protecting children from exploitation online has lost oxygen.

In this vacuum, technology companies have continued their meteoric growth, in scope and profits. And yet, those with the responsibility for policing their applications, operating systems and platforms to rid them of this vile crime have all too often, been given a free pass.

As a former executive and emissary of the Internet & technology industry, I must raise the alarm about the impending implementation of end-to-end encryption by Facebook across its Messenger and Instagram platforms.

We all understand that encryption is a powerful tool for protecting privacy but privacy at the expense of the safety of children is not an acceptable trade-off.  End-to-end encryption would allow paedophiles the protective cover to go undetected and unpunished. NCMEC estimates that 70% of Facebook's reports of abuse - 12 million annually - would be lost.  This decision significantly increases the risks to the children involved in those cases who are crying out to us for help.

I cannot see any apparent commercial reason for doing this, and equally, there has been no user-driven revolt or outcry demanding that Facebook take this action. And yet, despite the enormous pressure being placed on Facebook by governments all across the world, they persist.

So the question is why? What is motivating them? I think we can understand why companies make commercial decisions. But in this case, encryption thwarts the ability to monetise interactions, as the data microtargeting needs to fuel the precision of advertising algorithms, is no longer available for use. What then does this decision say about Facebook and its values?

When it comes to big tech companies, we hear platitudes of good intentions, about how many resources they are dedicating and how much money they are spending but it's just not enough. The time has come to prioritise the safety of children over theoretical and vague notions of privacy for all.

The right for children to be safe from harm is paramount and must be protected. Would you let your child ride in a car with no brakes? Would you give them medicine that has not been tested? No, of course not. Then how can we let them use apps, games and services where they are at risk of falling prey to sexual predators?

The answers to these questions are apparent, but the world doesn't become safer because we will it to be. It becomes safer when we make our children a priority and take action to ensure that they are protected.

The WePROTECT Global Alliance Summit puts this urgent issue once again at the forefront of the global agenda and draws attention to this worldwide epidemic and the devastating consequences it has for children today and for generations to come.

This Summit is about translating our outrage into action, understanding the technology that fuels and obfuscates this crime and clarifying who is responsible for enabling it.

Today, we publish our 2nd Global Threat Assessment which illustrates in graphic terms just how challenging our fight has become and how technology safe havens provide offender communities unprecedented and on-demand access to children and even infant victims. This report represents the most comprehensive analysis yet of the extent and evolving nature of this crime, how it is perpetrated, and what we must do to combat it. It serves as a blueprint for action. It is a wake-up call to anyone who puts their kids to sleep at night and expects them to be safe in the morning.

The crimes perpetrated against children are escalating at an alarming rate and a level of brutality previously unimaginable. In one case, an offender joined an online private discussion group where new members were required to post abuse images as a right of passage and a token to participate. To engage in the group, this offender raped a six-month-old girl and sexually assaulted a two-year-old boy, uploading the footage onto an encrypted app and sharing it through a file-sharing site. In another case, an offender was arrested and convicted for sending 15 money transfers to facilitators of live-streamed sexual abuse of children in the Philippines.

When I speak about this crime and how it is perpetrated, there is often a visceral reaction — a feeling of revulsion. My words are met with comments like, "it's too horrible to think about" or "I just can't hear that". But we must hear it. We must listen to descriptions of what child victims of sexual abuse have endured to humanise their experience and galvanise the world to take action.

There are other troubling developments. The changing norms of young people online and their willingness to share explicit pictures of themselves with friends has fueled a new wave of exploitation. In February 2018 an offender pleaded guilty to 137 offences relating to 300 victims of sadistic "hurt-core" material. He lured his victims through open apps before moving the conversation to secure, encrypted platforms to conduct sextortion and blackmail. The victims were forced to engage in and record ever more depraved activities or face blackmail and exposure of their abuse images to their parents, friends and across the dark web.

We have all come here because we care deeply about this issue, but simply doing more will no longer suffice. We can't arrest our way out of this crisis. The WePROTECT Model National Response must be fully implemented by all member countries to ensure we have a framework for operations to combat this crime. We must insist that technology companies stop treating our children's safety as an optional feature and start treating it as an essential requirement of making every system, app and product used by children, safe by design. We must implement the  "Safety by Design" principles developed by the e-Safety Commissioner in Australia.  And, if those safety mechanisms fail, we must hold the companies that build those products and profit from them to account.

Technology indeed facilitates and enables this crime, but technology is also central to the development of solutions to combat it. To that end, there is groundbreaking work being led by WePROTECT members that will be presented during the course of this Summit.  Thorn’s latest generation offering ‘Safer’ for instance, enables platform providers to quickly identify, remove and report child sexual abuse material and Canada's latest product, ‘Shield by Project Arachnid’ improves the capability for online service providers to accelerate the detection and removal of child sexual abuse material. These innovative solutions plus further enhancement and implementation of Microsoft's Photo DNA are just a few concrete tech solutions that ensure the success of our collective actions to rescue victims, thwart perpetrators and enable more prosecutions. After all, that's why we are here.

There is also a growing and robust ecosystem of new companies building online safety technology. New solutions that will, for instance, stop a child from uploading a sexually explicit photo or that will alert them to the language and behaviour patterns of those who would seek to coerce and exploit them. But all too often the big tech platforms refuse to engage with these innovative solutions, and worse; they actively disrupt them by cutting off access and refusing support. This is incredibly frustrating and it's wrong.

Online child abuse and exploitation must be recognised and acted on by every legislative body around the world. The challenge of drafting effective legislation to stop this global epidemic is immense, but the WePROTECT Global Alliance is making progress.

On November 20, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on protecting children's right to a safe experience online. This resolution, announced on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, calls on all Member States to enhance cooperation between law enforcement authorities and civil society organisations, including hotline networks, and to support organisations that fight child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation, such as the WePROTECT Global Alliance.

As the African continent navigates through a web revolution on a scale never seen before, the WePROTECT Global Alliance members stand ready to lend their expertise and collective goodwill to ensure a safer environment for all children using the Internet in Africa.

As we begin these proceedings, let's remember why we are here. Behind every tragic story, every case of abuse, there is a terrified, emotionally and physically scarred child. We must not forget that real lives are being destroyed. In the words of one of the Phoenix 11, "We want to remind industry that these are real children in the photos they receive takedown notices for. Child sexual abuse is never a choice for that child; it is abuse, and we never agreed to have it shared".

Child sexual abuse online is an urgent issue and it rises above politics and corporate profits.  Today we take control of the agenda and vow to fight for the dignity of child victims of this heinous crime.  We come together and draw the world's attention to the alarming number of adults interacting with children with sexual intent.  And, we will present evidence of explosive growth in offenders recruiting, sharing, and viewing child sexual abuse material online.

In closing, let’s all remember that where there is a shadow, there must also be light. The Internet can be an ally, it can be an instrument of awareness and opportunity, and it can improve young lives for the better.   Our job is to shine that light brightly by ensuring that the digital world is a safe space for children to learn without fear and to experience and participate in all that life has to offer.

Thank you.