Wednesday, 23 July 2014 13:33

ACMA and AFP forum to fight child exploitation Featured

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Don’t call it ‘child pornography’ – that just encourages them, by partially legitimising an evil activity.

It should more rightly called ‘child exploitation material’ or ‘child sexual abuse material’, says the Australian Federal police (AFP).

The AFP and many other child protection agencies around the world are trying to discourage the use of the phrase 'child pornography', particularly in the media, because they believe it can actually benefit child sex abusers, by indicate legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim, and therefore legality on the part of the abuser.

The term can also suggest images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse. As the AFP states: “Every photograph captures an actual situation where a child has been abused. This is not pornography.”

Now the AFP and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are co-sponsoring a major new regional forum to highlight current measures for combating child sexual abuse material online and to explore new opportunities for cross-sector action and collaboration.

The invitation-only forum next week brings together key stakeholders in Australian law enforcement and regionally based agencies and organisations who deal with online child sexual abuse material.

“The forum presents a tightly focused opportunity to exchange best practice and look at innovative ways for dealing with an issue that is of real concern to Australian citizens,’ said ACMA deputy chairman and cybersafety spokesman, Richard Bean.

“Only through multi-jurisdictional and cross-sector approaches can online child sex exploitation matters be dealt with effectively,” said AFP assistant commissioner Tim Morris. “We are looking for real opportunities for collaboration to assist the critical work undertaken by law enforcement in Australia and the Asia, Pacific region.”

Key note presentations will be delivered by the AFP, INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines for the eradication of child sexual abuse material online) and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children—a global movement to protect children from sexual exploitation and abduction.

Forum participants include Australian state police forces, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (US), the Internet Watch Foundation (UK), the Internet Association Japan, and ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) as well as hotlines for public reports about online child sexual abuse in Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

The ACMA, in a statement announcing the forum, says it has been playing a crucial role in the eradication of child sexual abuse material from the Internet. “The ACMA hotline for reporting offensive and illegal online content has become a frontline mechanism in Australia for combating this material.

“Within Australia the ACMA has strong take-down powers for such content hosted in Australia (with 100% take-down compliance across the 14 year life of the scheme).” It works through an online complaints form which can be found here.

The ACMA has conducted a number of public awareness activities this year, included the launch of the hotline branding, participation in National Child Protection Week and the formalisation of substantial new agreements with Australian law enforcement agencies and Crime Stoppers Australia.

That has seen a significant rise in complaints from members of the public about child sexual abuse material encountered online. New figures show a 550% increase in investigations into online child sexual abuse material. The ACMA has now conducted more than 7,600 individual investigations, based upon complaints in 2013-14.

The ACMA’s hotline has formal relationships with all Australian law enforcement agencies, including the AFP and Crime Stoppers Australia. It also says it has been highly effective at pursuing take-down and law enforcement notification for overseas-hosted child sexual abuse material through our relationships with more than 50 INHOPE partner hotlines around the world. The ACMA says nearly all child sexual abuse material reported through INHOPE channels is removed within three days.

The AFP performs an investigative and coordination role within Australia for multijurisdictional and international online child sex exploitation matters, including investigations into internet sites carrying child sexual abuse material.

The forum is intended to allow attendees to exchange strategic and operational information through a range of presentations from public, private, law enforcement and industry bodies. The sessions will facilitate discussion of operational tactics and opportunities for innovative collaboration and information-sharing.

The forum will support the activities of INHOPE hotlines by providing a regional focus to the global fight against child exploitation online. New bodies for reporting child sexual abuse material in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines will be attending the forum.

The forum will take place on 29-30 July at the ACMA’s offices in Sydney. For more information see: www.acma.gov.au/CCEMOforum

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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