Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has successfully supported efforts to identify several victims of child sexual abuse through its sixth Victim Identification Task Force (VIDTF). The efforts have led to three victims being tentatively identified: one in Europe, one in the USA and one in Russia with another investigation ongoing to identify a European victim and an offender.
VIDTF 6, hosted at Europol headquarters from 13 to 24 May 2019, saw experts from around the world working to identify victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation using advanced techniques, software and their knowledge and expertise. As a result, victims of this damaging crime have been located as living in several countries in the EU and beyond. Law enforcement authorities in those countries are currently working to finalise the identification of the children and save them from further harm.
The taskforce saw 34 experts in victim identification from 24 countries and 29 agencies coming together to work on shared materials at Europol’s headquarters over 12 days. They were supported by Europol staff, all specialists and intelligence analysts in this crime area. The unique combination of collaborative work, image and video analysis meant that the experts worked through millions of files to find and exploit vital clues. Added to this is Europol’s criminal intelligence analysis conducted by experts dedicated to the taskforce bringing extra information and clues to identify offenders.
The uploading of groups of linked images and video files to the International Child Sexual Exploitation Database (ICSE) hosted at INTERPOL is an integral part of the VIDTF model. This allows investigators with access to the database to contribute to the effort while it is taking place and afterwards. During VIDTF 6, the participants have uploaded 466 new datasets to ICSE and made more than 280 additions to existing datasets, therefore increasing the chances for the victims to be identified and safeguarded. Another significant part of the work is using existing techniques and developing new techniques to gather information from images and video files. Experts worked extensively on this and shared the new knowledge with their colleagues.
Steven Wilson, Head of the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol: “The life and dignity of every child is of the utmost importance to us all. Over the past two weeks at Europol, we have worked closely with specialist child abuse investigators from our international partners as part of VIDTF 6 to identify the location and identities of children that are being sexually abused across the world. The combined efforts of this team of investigators can make a huge difference to the lives of children through providing information to law enforcement colleagues in specific countries enabling them to start investigations and ultimately rescue the children from abuse.”
Victim identification experts participated from law enforcement agencies in Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA and INTERPOL.