Making the Internet a Safer Place — Interview with Perry Roach 

[00:00:01] Hello, and welcome to another episode of Inside the Sweeps Podcast. I’m your host, Umair Ahmed back with another exciting episode. We have Perry Roach, CEO of Netsweeper joining us today to discuss some very important topics. Perry speaks about the challenges that the governments are facing online when it comes to regulating content and getting rid of harmful illegal activities like child exploitation, illegal gambling, terrorism, and much more.

Perry also speaks about Netsweeper’s involvement in helping governments overcome those challenges. We also get to discuss the history of Netsweeper and what the mission is today. And finally, what the vision is moving forward. All in all, a very interesting conversation. Take a listen. Perry, welcome to the podcast, any opening thoughts?

[00:00:51] Well, thanks very much for having me today. Opening thoughts, what a question. I mean, the world is an interesting place with the internet, and how much is actually going on that we’re finding out about these big technology companies with you know, 450 page reports of monopoly and Congress drilling the owners and founders of these large technology companies, it’ll be sure interesting to see where everything lands.

[00:01:19] Definitely a lot going on Perry. Now, let’s start from the beginning. And when I say beginning, I mean, how did Netsweeper get its start?

[00:01:28] Well, 21 years ago, we founded Netsweeper with some initial technology. And that was in Canada in a little place called Guelph, Ontario. And we had a tiny office just above a salon, hair salon, which is interesting and grew from there, we got our first customer, which was a very large library 120 locations, which was perfect for our software, where the librarians were very upset about people coming in off the street and looking at inappropriate materials, specifically porn. So we had the solution, they had the problem, and we matched it up and Netsweeper was born.

And essentially, we focused on two major areas, which was schools, and we truly are a pupil protection company, as well as we focused on large telecommunication carrier grade networks, to enforce the laws on the internet. So back then, over 21 years ago, the internet was in its infancy, but being the mechanics of the internet, you know, we know bits and bytes and protocols and signatures and HTTP, HTTPS, because we know these type of things, people, we saw lots of different things going on on the internet, both, you know, really great things, but also challenging things, misuse of the internet, harmful content, inappropriate material that children really shouldn’t see. So we turn that around and provided schools with a tool for them to manage the internet while your children are at school.

In other words, while your kids come to school, you expect the school to look after them at recess, so they don’t run into the road or get into trouble. Well, what is the school going to do while the kids are on this World Wide Web? So in comes Netsweeper, we provide a duty of care and software to help the IT manager and the guidance department manage the content. What we really need to understand about the internet, if I could leave anything with you, is the internet is not about North America. It’s not about the EU, it’s not about any specific country, the internet is about the World Wide Web. And when we develop software, and when we develop a solution, we can’t just think about our own local countries, it has to be about the World Wide Web.

[00:03:41] Now, when you speak about 1999. That’s been around 21 years, you know, there has been a challenge and protecting users from harmful online content. And in those 21 years, it has evolved. As you mentioned, it was in its infancy back then. How would you describe Netsweeper’s mission today?

[00:04:01] So, Netsweeper’s mission is to do as we say and say as we do which is very hard to find in emerging technology companies because there’s so much unknown but our mission is truly to get into every network and provide a solution based on what you’re looking for.

One of the things that we’re maniacally focused on is child protection and blocking child exploitation and human trafficking. It’s the number one illegal act on the internet at a country wide level. We provide tools to allow law enforcement to identify and hunt predators. We provide tools at a government level and ISP level to block what we call illegal inappropriate child exploitation, which is clearly acceptable to every politician and every citizen of the world.

[00:04:51] This leads me to my next question, which is with the conversation now with the G20 wanting the internet to be governed. How does Netsweeper play a part in that?

[00:05:03] Well, let’s take a step back. The G20, as of March 2019, has decided that what they want to do is they want to take the exact laws for the last 100, 200, 300 years that exists today in real life and what they want to do, we want to apply the same laws on the internet. Now that is much more difficult than you think. Because, as I mentioned prior, the internet is the World Wide Web. And as we know, each country has their own jurisdictions, they have their own laws, they have their own religions, they have their own values. So trying to enforce laws on the internet by jurisdiction is what Netsweeper can help countries with. We can put a jurisdictional ring around your country and manage the specific laws that you feel are a better way to move forward with when it comes to you know, values and inappropriate material.

The biggest issue today on the internet was triggered by the 2019 videos that were posted all over the internet from the 53 Muslims that were unfortunately shot in New Zealand, and that is what I call has reached the government’s level of acceptance, the G20 now does not look at this filter as a censor by any means they really just want to get the harmful content off the internet. The real root of the problem is media and big technology companies.

So what I mean by that is that if you were to post that video that was posted in March 2019 you lose your license if you were a major broadcaster or a newspaper, and you just can’t go ahead and have two levels of rules. So you know fake news has caused illegal acts. And illegal gambling has caused a lot of problems. Most people don’t understand the major thing behind illegal gambling is money laundering. And then we also have the failure to remit ecommerce taxes by each country over the borders. It’s causing havoc at a time when governments need money more than most. So the G20 has reached what I call the level of acceptance, they want to stop this harmful content. And Netsweeper has been doing this for over 20 years. An example, as I mentioned, will be blocking child exploitation and human trafficking at the core networks countrywide.

[00:07:25] Now to switch gears a little bit Perry, what are the current challenges in protecting children online?

[00:07:32] First of all our children are our future and our asset and the exposure they have to the internet is monumental. And what we see at Netsweeper, we’re very proud of what we do. But we’re maniacally focused on protecting children both in the open World Wide Web as well as while they’re in school.

So, to give you an example. When your children go to school. In the old days, they had a proctor that would watch them when they went out to recess to make sure they didn’t run in to the streets or a van didn’t come by and pick them up. And now the kids are completely exposed to the internet. Mostly all day, these schools have to have some sort of duty to keep those children safe while they’re on the internet, especially while they’re on the internet at school. So what Netsweeper does is we provide platforms and tools and a safety ecosystem that allows the IT manager and the guidance department to really get a good handle and be in duty of care while the children are on the internet.

An example of that would be you know, maybe blocking inappropriate material or harmful content in a private network at school or alerting a teacher or a guidance counselor when a child is looking to do something extreme. An extreme process might be surfing how to hurt themselves or surfing how to commit suicide or surfing the use of drugs and these types of things. So while the children are on that school network, it’s very important to have tools and highly technical tools that are focused on children’s safety in the real world. Unfortunately, it’s a sad story you know, child exploitation on the internet has really gone to an unacceptable level especially with everybody being cocooned at home due to COVID. Over the last eight to nine months we’ve seen a 1,000% increase in cases of child exploitation.

[00:09:26] Perry, with the discussion now with governments wanting the internet to be regulated and needing help regulating these technology companies and the internet overall. However, Netsweeper has been doing that for a number of years now. Can you comment on how Netsweeper has been helping manage and apply these laws for the governments online and solving these problems that you mentioned?

[00:09:49] So what Netsweeper provides is a platform that is multi-tenant. What that means is that each telco does not have have to worry about the content that is going to be managed. Netsweeper and the government will, of course, with the proper laws and the proper privacy rules provide the list of for in this example, child exploitation or the videos that should be blocked that are deemed illegal and the ISP doesn’t really have to do much other than host the server.

And the reason Netsweeper has such longevity in these ISPs is due to lack of risk. When you put Netsweeper in the core network, which is very hard to do, we provide a zero risk of taking your network down and zero latency. And this is really important to the ISPs because they don’t want to lose any of the user experience. And we all love fast internet. So, what’s happening here is the country will then have equality where one ISP is not having an advantage over the other. With Netsweeper, we can centrally manage this and ensure that the laws are enforced, not only today, but tomorrow.

[00:10:59] These are some very important issues that you just touched upon Perry, child exploitation, illegal gambling, companies not paying their taxes, terrorism, and fake news. So my question for you, Perry, is what sets Netsweeper apart from other technology companies that help tackle these challenges?

[00:11:19] That’s an interesting question. Netsweeper’s main differentiator is the ability to scale. First of all, you have to have a worldwide presence. We’re currently in 60 countries. And what we do different than most is we’re finding over 175 million new URLs a day, categorizing that, and returning those back to our customers. So we literally in a second or two, would find these URLs and new websites and bring the World Wide Web to each one of our customers in 40 different languages. So that is the number one differentiator.

We have a real good handle on new websites, as well as over 12 billion existing websites in our database. The other thing that’s interesting is just the sheer size and scale of the internet. If you go to netsweeper.com/live-stats, it gives you a good visual of, you know, the types of content we’re finding on the internet, everything from sites that are malicious to inappropriate sites, to extreme sites, to porn sites, and so on. Yeah, we have 92 categories that we find around the world.

But what’s really interesting about what’s happening in the world today is the challenge of throughputs, where our largest customer today has seven terabytes of throughput of traffic, and 380 million subscribers that have data in that. So imagine the type of system and solution that can live in that environment. And this is where Netsweeper differentiates ourselves between others. And that is we can live in these large throughput environments. And we can live in these large numbers of data customer environments, and still perform with zero latency and zero risk of taking your network down.

[00:13:03] You mentioned throughput for an audience who is not very technical. Can you explain that a little bit more?

[00:13:08] Absolutely. So as you utilize internet more and more, you use more and more what’s called data or gigabytes of traffic. So imagine millions of users on one internet service providers network using many, many gigabytes each, it adds up to a lot. So those internet vendors like routers, and switches, and Netsweeper, and these others, they need to manage. And they need to handle that on behalf of the internet service providers on behalf of the governments and on behalf of the schools. They need to be able to manage it.

So one of the biggest issues and challenges of an IT manager today is will my vendor be able to you know, manage what we have today. But more importantly, if the internet and when your internet doubles and grows, will they be able to handle and manage that growth of the internet tomorrow? And Netsweeper’s proven over the last 21 years that we can manage and handle that growth.

[00:14:03] So for our audience members, Perry, what is the key takeaway you want them to have coming out of this conversation and about what Netsweeper stands for?

[00:14:13] Well, what Netsweeper stands for is to be maniacally focused on protecting citizens and children on the internet for human trafficking and child exploitation. We want to continue our pupil protection ecosystem in the schools where we can alert the guidance department if there’s self harm going on. So illegal activity and we really want to regulate the internet to the matter that will finally give equality to the media versus the internet platforms, finally give you quality to online sales versus bricks and mortar, finally, give equality to the laws that exist in societies outside of the internet versus on the internet. So this is what Netsweeper is all about. We provide tools that allow our customers to manage the internet. We share our best practices of what others are doing. And we’re very, very proud of the team and what the team strives to do, which is stay in front of the curve, stay in front of the wave of this www.

[00:15:14] Thanks for your time Perry, where can people contact you?

[00:15:17] Please feel free to email me at perry.roach@netsweeper.com or visit our website www.netsweeper.com.

[00:15:26] Absolutely, I’ll put Perry’s contact info in the description. And anything that was mentioned will also be on the show notes. Perry. Thank you.

[00:15:35] Thank you. Cheers. Bye.

[00:15:39] Thank you for tuning into this episode. I hope all of you enjoyed this conversation. If you have not listened to the previous episode, please check them out on Spotify or Google Podcast and hit subscribe. To stay updated on all news related to Netsweeper, make sure to give us a follow on any of our social platforms. We’re active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Once again, thank you for listening. Until next time.