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Using Digital Technology for Good

People use computers in a Internet cafe in Turkey.

As everyone knows, digital technologies have dramatically altered the capability to gather and exchange information in recent years. And everyone knows that those capabilities, in addition to bringing innumerable benefits, are sometimes misused.

Last summer, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and Thomson Reuters brought together several dozen people from government, industry, academia, and think tanks to create a new Digital Economy Task Force. The challenge: To promote a policy framework that would encourage beneficial uses of digital technologies, while also minimizing their potential for misuse in ways that exploit children.

Yesterday, the task force, of which I am the vice chair, released its report, titled “The Digital Economy: Potential, Perils, and Promises.” The report recognizes that tools for conferring digital anonymity have many positive applications, including protecting journalists and dissidents in authoritarian countries. But those same tools can also be used for unlawful purposes. Today, law enforcement has the extremely challenging job of finding the perpetrators of online crimes involving children in an era when the perpetrators are armed with an increasingly sophisticated set of technologies designed specifically to make them hard to locate and identify. As the report notes, “[t]o adapt, law enforcement agencies will need to alter their investigative methods, introduce new training programs, and conduct research to better understand the nature of criminal activities involving the ‘deep web.’”

The report also discusses regulation, in particular of emerging mechanisms for moving money, including cryptographic currencies such as bitcoin. Again, the report advocates a balanced approach, recognizing that overregulation can stifle innovation and economic growth, but that insufficient regulation can leave consumers unprotected and spur the growth of markets for illicit goods and services.

The report concludes with over a dozen specific recommendations that can help guide policy as governments around the world adapt existing frameworks—and develop new ones—to help ensure that digital technologies are used in responsible and beneficial ways.

Interested in learning more about promoting beneficial uses of digital technology?  Read the report here: The Digital Economy: Potential, Perils, and Promises.

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