The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) meeting was hosted in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada this week by the current Chair of the VGT, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The VGT is an international alliance comprised of law enforcement, industry and non-government partners dedicated to the protection of children from online sexual exploitation and other forms of transnational child sexual offences.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner White, of Specialized Policing Services, welcomed the international partners to the meeting and stressed the reality that online child sexual exploitation is not solely a law enforcement issue, but rather one that requires all sectors of society to work together to develop multi-disciplinary response strategies.
As the Chair of the VGT, RCMP Chief Superintendent Arsenault hosted the meeting highlighting the concurrent increase in scale, complexity and severity of online offending and also highlighted the importance of partners in our global fight against online child sexual exploitation. “The VGT represents a united taskforce that prioritizes child protection. That [CHILD PROTECTION] must be central to all of our efforts be it law enforcement, Industry, and non-government agencies” suggests Chief Supt. Arsenault.
The VGT meeting provided the opportunity to endorse the 2019 VGT Environmental Scan that examines the current landscape of online child sexual exploitation threats globally and informs the strategic direction of the VGT. The E-Scan will be available via the VGT website on November 1.
The E-Scan reinforced the global and continuous increase in reports as well as the complexity of these types of investigations. In 2018 there were 18.4 million global industry referrals of child sexual abuse material to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children compared with 10.2 million in 2017. This, again, highlights the need for collaborative efforts in developing innovative technological strategies. Industry partners are encouraged to work with law enforcement to ensure that their platforms, existing and new, are informed from a child safety perspective.
“Ensuring that children globally are not put at increased harm via technological design is critical. Through increased collaboration, the right balance must be struck between protecting users’ privacy, including end to end encryption, and protecting people, and particularly children, from criminal harm. This includes utilizing a safety by design methodology. Industry engagement is a key priority for the VGT and the ongoing need for this was reinforced via the findings of the VGT E-Scan” commented the VGT Chair, Chief Supt. Arsenault.
Also of critical importance is the health and wellness of those who play a role in the protection of children from online sexual exploitation, including law enforcement, Industry and non-government agencies. The VGT is leading an international research study that will help agencies be more proactive in protecting and maintaining employee health and wellness.
The VGT offers a unique and critical platform for law enforcement, Industry, and non-government partners to work collaboratively, to break down silos, and to ensure that efforts are complementary and work toward child safety and protection from online child sexual exploitation.