The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) warns against trends related to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children online and offline. The VGT, an international collaboration of law enforcement agencies, non-government organizations and industry partners working to protect children from online and offline sexual exploitation is dedicated to protecting all children from the dangers posed by use of the internet to sexually exploit them, protection that is best achieved through global collaboration.
It is important to note there is no single international legal definition of child sexual exploitation. International legislations and legal and judicial systems differ, as do the standards and capabilities to respond victims of child abuse material (CAM) or child pornography, as some legislations refer to it. Together these factors cause many challenges to surface One must keep in mind that internet crimes are borderless, therefore it requires cooperation and collaboration across many sectors for successful prosecutions and victim identification and removal from abusive environments.
Challenges to the safety of children are posed by evolving threats in online child sexual exploitation and abuse such as the increasing use cryptocurrencies as payment methods for Child Sexual Abuse Material (CAM) and Live Distant Child Abuse (LDCA). Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA 2016), describes LDCA as a pre-paid specific time-frame arrangement where a perpetrator engages in the live abuse of children through video sharing platforms. The assessment of Europol, a VGT member, is that those involved can engage as the director of the abuse for a higher price or as a viewer. A previous report by the European Financial Coalition Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Online (EFC) also identified Live Distant Child Abuse as an imminent trend. The Financial Coalitions in the US, ASIA-Pacific and Europe successfully shut down many ‘traditional’ methods of paying for child abuse material but this has resulted in an increased uptake in cryptocurrencies.
This use of cryptocurrencies is subject of a recent report by the US Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography (FCACP) and VGT member the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). The FCACP/ICMEC report noted that there is “clear evidence that Bitcoin has made significant inroads into (payment for) commercial sexual abuse material, the sex trade and in the exploitation and trafficking of minors and adults alike. Titled Cryptocurrency and the BlockChain, the report also highlighted the prevalence of cases involving live distant child abuse. In one example the role of “director” is auctioned off or charged at a significant premium, giving one user the right to control the abuse”. The report noted that examples of such scenarios were to be found on the Dark Web on a site which showed bitcoins as the accepted payment method.
Another trend noted by the report was that shutting down “traditional” methods of payment and transactions has resulted in the increased adoption use of cryptocurrency as an alternative. Law enforcement agencies and industry partners continuously work together to combat challenges they are facing.
Collaborative efforts by VGT members and other significant companies from the digital world, many of whom are also signatories to the WePROTECT Statement of Actions, and ISPs use common tools including image hashes, URL blacklists and data from organizations like Internet Watch Foundation and the VGT member National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to attempt to limit, filter or remove CAM as the FCACP report indicates. In addition, further initiative has been taken by INTERPOL where they introduced the INTERPOL “Worst of”-list (IWOL) tool as an example of blocking websites containing child abuse material.”
The VGT is dedicated to working towards solutions on tackling offline and online child sexual exploitation and raising awareness about it.