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NetClean Labs | 19/11/2017

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The NetClean Report 2016 - a unique insight into the fight against online Child Sexual Abuse.

The NetClean Report 2016 – a unique insight into the fight against online Child Sexual Abuse.

In this, my last blog for NetClean, I want to highlight the recent NetClean report (2016). It is a unique report involving 360 police officers from 26 countries who answered questions and shared insights into their work. The collated responses present a valuable collection of data and commentary on online Child Sexual Abuse Crime.

It is clear from the report that law enforcement agencies across borders and jurisdictions are working better together than ever before through sharing information and technology.  It is also very gratifying that the police officers in this survey saved more than 1,600 children from further harm in 2015 as a result of increased cooperation, better training, and a focus on identifying victims.

Despite popular belief that most child sexual abuse material is produced in countries and regions where the legal frameworks concerning children’s rights are less developed, the majority of child sexual abuse material originates from Europe and North America. This is where ownership of personal computers rank highest per person and where internet connectivity is the most developed. Therefore, when spreading awareness about child sexual abuse, it is important to highlight that the material is not generated in far off places, but here, amongst us, everywhere.

In terms of finding ‘how’ and ‘where’ material is shared, there is a divide between where the police find the bulk of the material and where they believe that it is mainly shared. The survey showed that 50-80 per cent of all found material is shared through P2P / file sharing. Still, there is much awareness that Darknet/ TOR, which is more difficult to police, is likely to be a more prolific avenue for sharing material. Bjorn Sellstrom, of the Swedish Police National Operative Department, confirms that P2P is the most common way to find material, but comments that, “It is easy to find information on the internet about how to hide your identity on the internet,” concluding that it is his guess that most material is shared using the hidden part of the internet where encryption makes investigating cases more difficult.

In addition, the report also highlights, not surprisingly, that Social Media is one of the most common ways of distributing CSA. As the use of Social Media rises it follows that these platforms will also increasingly be used to distribute material. Sites like Kik, Facebook and Snapchat are all mentioned as platforms used to facilitate grooming and sextortion, and to share material. The report shows that there is increasing awareness of this problem and police are receiving a growing number of tips and reports from the public and from Social Media platforms who actively search their streams for illicit material.

Internet Service Providers are increasingly including prevention work against child sexual abuse material into their Corporate Social Responsibility policies and actively block websites that showcase child sexual abuse material. An example of this is Swedish based Tele2 that blocks an average of 500,000 searches for websites showing this kind of material every month.

The statistics in the report along with the commentary paints a picture of a world where the production and distribution of child sexual abuse is easily done with every day devices like smartphones and computers. After eight years of working at NetClean, I leave, however, feeling more optimistic about the future and I wish everyone working in this area the best of success in making the future a safer place for our children. I believe that with more collaboration, increased awareness and improved technology, child sexual abuse will become more prioritised by governments and society – as it should be.  In turn, this should lead to more robust law enforcement, more children being rescued from abuse and most important of all, prevention of child sexual abuse.