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Women in Tech: Dedicating a Career to Online Child Safety

By March 15, 2016 March 8th, 2018 No Comments

Einat Clarke is a Senior Counsel at Google, the President of the Technology Coalition, Inc., an industry trade association dedicated to eradicating online child sexual exploitation, and a contributor to Thorn’s Tech Task Force. Her blog post is part of Thorn’s “Women in Tech” series in March, which highlights women who have dedicated themselves as Digital Defenders of Children.

When I graduated from college, I was proud to introduce my parents to my favorite pre-law professor. My dad took the opportunity to thank my mentor and then asked her if she could guide my future path as a lawyer by teaching me how to be calm, unemotional and dispassionate about law. I’m sure my face turned all kinds of crimson, but then my professor countered: “I can’t teach her how to be unemotional about the law, because I don’t know how to be unemotional about the law.”

She reassured me that I didn’t have to change my temperament, but she also gave me a mantra that I would carry in the rest of my legal career, and in particular, in my work to combat child exploitation: Don’t be afraid to feel something!

One of the places I used this approach, surprisingly, was while practicing law at a big firm.  This firm truly valued giving associates the opportunity to do pro bono work and there was no shortage of assignments. I typically found myself being drawn to the cases with emotionally difficult facts.  Domestic violence restraining orders. Asylum. Elder abuse. Guardianships where children were unable to be cared for by their parents.  Some of my colleagues shuddered, saying “I don’t know how you can do that… it’s too personal.” I shrugged off these comments with the knowledge and satisfaction that my work mattered to me and my clients, but that it may not be for everyone.

Working with Google to Address Child Safety

However, when I saw a job opening at Google for a Child Safety Counsel, I admit, I hesitated.  While the draw of working for an amazing company like Google was undeniable, how would I be able to cope with daily exposure to the realities of such severe abuse? In short, I had no idea.  I knew the mastery of the law would come relatively quickly, but what about all the baggage that comes with it by working these types of cases?  

I made a choice.  With eyes wide open, I gave myself permission to be emotional about the field I was entering into and bring my legal armor with me. In that moment, I thought to myself, “it’s okay to feel something… to feel everything… when facing this beast”. I feel as a lawyer; I feel as a mother; and I feel as a fellow human being. I feel for those children who may be too numb to feel anything anymore.

And I’m not alone. I get to work with talented and passionate engineers, lawyers, analysts, operational teams, project managers, and executives who deeply care about doing the right thing for our products, our users and our world. They bring their own skills as their armor just as I bring mine.  

Leading Tech Collaboration to Fight Child Sexual Exploitation

This collaboration extends beyond the Googleplex. We work alongside nonprofits and industry.  It’s inspiring to see companies who may be fiercely competitive in some segments, come together to find solutions through trade associations like the Technology Coalition, Thorn’s Tech Task Force and others. These are networks that come together to solve challenging problems around issues like child sexual exploitation. Forged in the fire, these business relationships swiftly transform into lasting friendships and anticipated reunions, for we all go into this battle together.  

While I couldn’t have ever scripted this path, I’m so thankful that I made the choice to be here. It’s a field full of interesting and nuanced legal issues, and passionate professionals on both industry and law enforcement’s side.  I look forward to new generations of sharp minds and open hearts that will join in the work to improve our products and the Internet for vulnerable children.