He confirmed the numbers released on Friday reflected all content reported to the center, including material that “may not meet the legal definition of child pornography.”
Still, the numbers do not paint a complete picture of the problem: The industry has been plagued by uneven and inconsistent detection practices, as The Times reported last year. Some cloud storage services, including those owned by Amazon and Microsoft, do not scan for any of the illegal content at all, while other companies, like Snap, scans for photos but not videos.
The data shows broad disparities in the tech industry. Google reported more than 3.5 million combined images and videos; Yahoo more than two million; and Imgur, a photo-sharing site, more than 260,000. Dropbox, Microsoft, Snap and Twitter are the only other companies that reported more than 100,000 images and videos last year.
Apple reported dramatically fewer images than most other tech giants, just over 3,000 in total, and zero videos. These figures reflect the company’s inability to scan material sent through its messaging app, which is encrypted, as well as the fact that it does not scan its file storage service, iCloud. Amazon, whose cloud services handle millions of uploads and downloads every second, sent no images or videos to the national center.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who has sponsored child protection legislation and was recently part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who asked 36 tech companies to detail their efforts in this area, called the numbers “appalling and astonishing.”
“The disparate data reported here shows that we clearly cannot rely on tech companies to self-police,” he said.
Alex Stamos, who served as chief of information security at both Facebook and Yahoo, said the numbers were a reflection of companies that have put more effort into finding and removing the material from their platforms.