A larger force to stamp out online child sexual exploitation

12 June 2012
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Press Release/News

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Four new organisations have joined the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), committing to the ongoing fight against technology facilitated crimes against children.

Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, World Vision Australia, Research In Motion and The Code, last month joined the VGT as private sector partners.

Chair of the VGT Neil Gaughan said these new partnerships are valuable to the VGT and vital to wiping out online child sexual exploitation all over the world.

“When it comes to combating online child sexual exploitation, a collaborative approach is critical. I am pleased to welcome these new organisations to the VGT,” Mr Gaughan said.

“These new partnerships will assist VGT law enforcement agency members in sharing best practices and exploring new technologies to support innovative thinking to reduce the threat to children online.”

Engagement and cooperation is a strong focus for the VGT, which aims to work closely with academia, non-government organisations, industry and the private sector to keep children safe online. Since 2010, nine private sector partners have joined the VGT.

World Vision Australia (WVA) is a child-focused humanitarian, development and advocacy organisation which is well placed to assist VGT partners and law enforcement agencies with vital information and intelligence. As part of the World Vision global partnership, WVA has access to invaluable information on emerging trends and best practice in preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation. WVA will work to harness the perspectives of children and communities to enhance law enforcement efforts.

"World Vision Australia is thrilled to be partnering with global law enforcement leaders on such an important issue," said World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello. "I commend the VGT for its innovative and collaborative approach. We must all work together if we are to protect vulnerable children from sexual predators."

The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit consists of international specialists partnering to transform the fight against cybercrime. The VGT will benefit from Microsoft's experience and expertise in developing technical solutions to combat online child sexual exploitation. Examples of Microsoft DCU projects that may benefit VGT members include (1)  PhotoDNA, which is an image matching technology that helps law enforcement expedite investigations and strengthens their ability to quickly identify and rescue victims; and (2) the Microsoft Law Enforcement Assistance Program which provides training, tools and technical support. Additionally, some of the VGT member countries already use Microsoft’s Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), which helps law enforcement agencies to follow up on leads, collect evidence and build cases against suspected child predators.

“There should be no place on the internet that a person can hide if that person has molested a child,” said Bill Harmon, Associate General Counsel of the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. “Law enforcement officers are the real heroes in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Their dedicated work and partnerships across the globe are key to addressing this horrible problem. Microsoft is honoured to join the VGT and work with others dedicated to fighting child sexual exploitation.”

Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionised the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry® solution in 1999. The VGT will benefit from RIM’s support and mobile applications designed to protect children from harmful content and RIM’s participation in other programs to support a safer internet. The VGT will also gain from having access to the expertise, resources and networking opportunities available through RIM’s global developer community.

“Device security is vitally important to protect children and other vulnerable groups from cyber threats that can be used to exploit children online,” said Fred Nesbitt, RIM’s Legal Director for Public Safety Operations.  “RIM is pleased to be a member of the VGT and looks forward to working with organisations and communities that seek to protect children from online exploitation.”

The Code Of Conduct For The Protection Of Children From Sexual Exploitation In Travel And Tourism (The Code) engages the tourism industry (hotels, airlines, tour operators) to request their commitment in accepting their Code of Conduct. Already more than 1000 travel companies from 42 countries have signed This Code of Conduct, which seeks to protect children from travelling child sex offenders. The VGT and The Code will work together to link the travel and tourism industry and law enforcement and raise further awareness of this Code of Conduct.

"We are very excited about the partnership with the VGT. We hope The Code can further strengthen the link between the travel and tourism industry and law enforcement to protect children from travelling child sex offenders. We also hope the partnership with the VGT can help us explore new ways to protect children from travelling sexual offenders who are using new technology,” said Manager of The Code Andreas Astrup.

A key goal for the VGT is to build stronger alliances and expand the VGT membership with organisations outside law enforcement. The VGT has also developed strategic partnerships with:

End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes network (ECPAT International), International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE) and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and PayPal.

Members of the VGT include the Australian Federal Police, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (UK), the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service, INTERPOL, the Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates, the New Zealand Police and Europol.

For more information on the VGT, visit: www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com