This PSA Attacks The Industry That Gives Predators More Privacy

The ChildFund campaign uses victim art to represent a monster empowered by big tech

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[Sensitive content: This article mentions sexual assault]

There’s a monster hiding in plain sight, representing every parent’s worst fear when giving their kid access to the internet. But many tech companies pretend this menace doesn’t exist.

A new campaign from nonprofit ChildFund, created by social impact agency WRTHY, underscores the threat of online child sexual exploitation while criticizing the companies that have ignored it. 

The ad depicts a monster, inspired by victim drawings, that occasionally pops out from under the guise of a man leading a seemingly normal life. With lines like, “the only people who could stop me pretend I don’t exist,” the campaign pokes holes at the undue prioritization of offender privacy over child protection. 

Platforms are legally required to report sexual abuse material once they’re made aware of it, but they’re not required to proactively search for it—and there is no punishment if they don’t remove it quickly, said WRTHY co-founder and CEO Jenifer Willig. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline receives more than 80,000 suspected reports every day. 

“We’ve created this perfect environment for predators,” said WRTHY executive creative director Lew Willig, who pointed to resources like “cheap cloud storage devices and broadband service” that have only fueled these crimes. “That’s where the line ‘It’s never been a better time to be a monster’ came up, and we created a monster to give it that visual hook and surprising visual.” 

Expediting engagement

When approaching the brief, WRTHY wanted to create a PSA that had a tangible ask beyond the vague prospect of raising awareness—one that mobilized parents while positioning government officials and tech companies as the players to blame.

A proprietary widget lives at the top of the campaign’s landing page and allows audiences to tweet at policymakers to pass the CSAM Act, which cracks down on the escalation of child sex abuse material online, in one click.

WRTHY also emphasized that the scope of this threat warrants more than passive lessons to kids on the dangers of engaging with strangers, according to Lew Willig. 

“(ChildFund) was really adamant about not doing the ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ thing,” said Jenifer Willig. “It really was about making people understand the size and scale of the issue.” 

Reverse engineering a monster 

While the agency set out to design a subject that directly represented art therapy samples from child victims, Legacy Effects prop designer Alan Scott worried that a direct representation would trivialize the issue. They instead decided to create a reverse interpretation to encompass what the child behind the drawings might have actually been envisioning. 

“Initially we thought that when you saw the monster, you would understand there was this child naivety to it that was slightly cartoonish,” said Lew Willig, who added that designing the monster was one of the most challenging parts of the brief. “But when we got into production, there was a concern of not seeming like we were taking the issue as seriously.” 

Expanding education through real accounts

The agency used sources from every angle of the issue to tell a comprehensive story. Supplemental content features an account from Sonya Ryan, who founded the Carly Ryan Foundation after her daughter was murdered by a 50-year-old predator disguised as an 18-year-old boy, and retired special agent of Homeland Security Investigations Jim Cole, who explains how many of the risks involved in engaging with child sexual abuse material have been nulled by the growth of technology. 

“There is technology available to detect child sexual abuse material and block it within nanoseconds,” said Cole, emphasizing that platforms are already scrubbing material for copyright information.

When parents ask Cole what platforms are safe for their children, the only answer he can wholeheartedly offer is an umbrella statement: “If your child wants to be on a platform, then offenders will also be on that platform.” 

“Taking material off these platforms is really the first step,” said Jenifer Willig. “It doesn’t solve the problem, but it definitely puts a big dent in it as we move forward.”

WRTHY, Agency

  • Executive Creative Director: Lew Willig
  • Creative Director: Mark Girand
  • Account Director: Evangeline DiMichele
  • Co-founder, Partner: Katie Harrison
  • CEO: Jenifer Willig
  • Producers: Harry Lowell, Betsy Beale, Ari Wilhem
  • Designer: Jaadi Fonseca
  • Co-Founder, Partner: Erin Thornton
  • Co-Founder, Partner: Sheila Roche
  • Producer: Margaux Ravis
  • Microsite Development: Saad Karim, Ivan Badia
  • Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
  • Director: Noam Murro 
  • Tiana Holt, Strategist
  • Pulse Music, Music (Monster)

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