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The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children processed 3,638 reports of online “enticement” of children by adults last year, down from 4,053 in 2010 and 5,759 in 2009.
Even those companies with state-of-the-art defenses spend far more time trying to stop online bullying and attempts to sneak profanity past automatic word filters than they do fending off sex predators.
“There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,” said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography.
Former employees said site owner Sulake of Finland laid off many in-house workers earlier this year, leaving it unable to moderate 70 million lines of daily chat adequately.
Companies can set the software to take many defensive steps automatically, including temporarily silencing those who are breaking rules or banning them permanently.
As a result, many threats are eliminated without human intervention and moderators at the company are notified later.
“The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible,” said Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries.
Facebook is among the many companies that are embracing a combination of new technologies and human monitoring to thwart sex predators.