[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]
The session, moderated by Ms Catherine Mbengue (Senior Advisor for Advocacy, ECPAT International), featured discussions on how a multistakeholder approach can be a way to combat online child sexual exploitation. Mbengue began her speech saying that the Internet is a catalyst of innovation, education, and economic growth, and brings a lot of possibilities for children. On the other hand, there is a big challenge in how to deal with the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. She said that there is no border for this kind of crime and the fight against it demands coordination between stakeholders. Finally, she presented the session speakers, inviting them to talk about the five thematic aspects of national model of response: policy and governance, criminal justice, society, victims, and industry.
At the beginning of her speech, Ms Maud Buquicchio (UN Special Rapporteur on Crimes against Children) said that it is necessary to avoid the term 'child pornography' because it is inappropriate to the discussion and it is important not to forget that above each child picture is a child abuse. She identified many forms of abuse and exploitation of children like production and dissemination of images of abused children, prostitution, sale of children, dissemination of self-generated images obtained by pressure, and live streaming of sexual abuse. Buquicchio affirmed the necessity of international cooperation and a multistakeholder approach to end online sexual abuse of children. She presented the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which counts on the commitment of 17 countries, 20 leading global technology companies, and 17 leading civil society organisations to collaborate to end this crime globally. WePROTECT has developed a model national response that is a guide for action and capacity building a country needs to achieve to provide a comprehensive response to online threats, and that can be adapted to local reality. Some capabilities that need to be developed are takedown procedures, abuse report mechanisms, and innovative technological solutions development to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. Finally, Buquicchio concluded that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) do not treat child sexual exploitation explicitly, but this topic appears in many goals, for example in the gender equality aspects.
Mr Anjan Bose (Child Protection Specialist Violence Prevention and Online Protection, Programme Division, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)) reinforced the importance of bringing all relevant stakeholders together around the world to stop online child sexual exploitation because it is not a particular issue for a particular set of countries. During his speech, he presented a UNICEF programme implemented in 17 countries, adding some reflections about its implementation. Bose said that is important the leadership, commitment, and understanding at a country level, especially involves different ministries for a more holistic initiative. As the number of children online is growing, it is necessary to empower and protect them. The monitoring of initiatives, and qualitative and quantitative data is important for policymakers at a national level. Bose presented another UNICEF initiative: research about kids online. UNICEF has developed a toolkit so that all interested nations can apply the same research and the results can be compared internationally. At the end of his speech, he considered that the identification of the victims and their rescue is a difficult challenge because they are isolated; normally nobody knows what happened with them. It takes a long time to detect child abuse.
Mr Kristof Claesen (Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)) began his participation talking about the importance of relevant data in research and to understand the child sexual exploitation problem. Needs and activities have to be mapped to understand which data are necessary. He said that the existence of data evidence permits monitoring progress, benchmarking against international standards, and making it easier to receive funding. Claesen believes that each country has to have a system to tackle images and a secure and anonymous place for citizens report crimes. Another important issue is about the creation of a team that assess the crime reports, a team that knows the laws and international standards. This team needs to be psychologically supported and to be secured in terms of office and ICT systems because they are exposed to all kind of images and videos and are dealing with criminal content. He concluded by talking about the role of industry in dealing with this subject: Internet service providers (ISPs) can block websites with this kind of content, technologies can be developed to detect images, search engines can suppress certain keywords to prevent the illegal content access, and financial companies can prevent some financial transactions whose content are child abuse images.
In his speech, Mr Peter van Dalen (Crimes Against Children Unit, Interpol) said that 85% of people who are watching online material have, at some point of theirs lives, met an online offence, including child sexual exploitation and abuse. He reflected on the artificial distinction between online and offline sexual exploitation. Dalen spoke about Interpol’s sexual exploitation database that is available to investigators around the world despite the resistance of many countries to sharing their information. He noted that not only is international cooperation necessary, but also coordination between investigation initiatives to stop online child sexual exploitation. Resources are scarce so cooperation avoids duplication of efforts, and makes prevention more effective. Dalen concluded his intervention by saying the implementation of a global system is not simple; different countries have different answers about what sexual exploitation is and their legislations are not necessarily compatible with each other.
by Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício