Combating Child Porn Conference Focuses on New Technology | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.09.2007
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Combating Child Porn Conference Focuses on New Technology

The use of new technologies and better cross border co-operation is the focus of a conference aimed at combating the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. DW-WORLD.DE spoke to the conference organizer.

Police examine computers

Training police officers will be a focus of the conference

Tim Del Vecchio is the organizer of the Conference on Improving Law Enforcement's Response to Combat Sexual Exploitation of Children on the Internet. He is a police affairs officer with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Strategic Police Matters Unit.

DW WORLD.DE: What will be discussed at the conference?

Tim del Vecchio: We are going to address several technical issues -- what kind of technology is out there so we can conduct our investigations more effectively, what type of police training is available at no cost and is also available to states that cannot afford their own police training. Most of all we want to make partnerships with the private sector. For example, Microsoft, and VISA Europe are participating. VISA is talking about how they can work with the credit card companies more effectively. Internet service providers from various OSCE member states are going to talk about how the police can work better with Internet service providers.

Our focus is going to on the offenders more than the victims. We have an anti-trafficking unit at the OSCE that focuses on the victim issues, about the after-care, what kind of therapies are available and shelters that might be available for victims if we can't send them home. Our role is going to be to address the police and the prosecutors.

What are the measures available to fight child pornography?

One of the first places we have to start looking at is domestic legislation. Last year, we were very much involved in helping the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, through various focus groups throughout Europe, where we were looking at what the legislation consisted of. For example: Was it illegal to possess child pornography? Was it illegal in your country to distribute child pornography? Once police officers and prosecutors have the laws in place, then we have the tools to do our job.

There are several organs fighting this type of crime, like the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center in Great Britain. What kind of co-operation do you have with other organizations?

OSCE's Tim Del Vecchio

Tim Del Vecchio said everybody shares the blame for child porn

The OSCE is not an operational police unit -- we don't conduct investigations. We are primarily a political organization that facilitates co-operation. We are going to have police officers from Austria and Belgium attending and even police officers from Russia. Each one of them is going to present a case study that took place recently in their country and we are going to use these three case studies as an example.

What kind of difficulties did you run into, how did you solve the problems. What kind of difficulties do we have in common? It is kind of a "lessons learned" identification and we also hope to have examples of good practices out of this as well. Interpol and CEOP are doing a fantastic job in fighting this crime. The problem is that it is so pervasive, and we definitely want to increase cross-border co-operation. We don't want an investigation to stop just because it goes across the border.

Why were the case studies of Belgium, Austria and Russia chosen?

They volunteered their services. They took time out of their investigation. Austria had a high profile case last year and we thought it would be an example of best practice. Belgium also had some high profile cases.

Which new technologies are being presented at the conference?

Microsoft is going to talk about the Child Exploitation Tracking software. They have developed this because the Canadian police were having difficulties with investigations in this area. One police officer in Toronto wrote to Microsoft and they responded by spending $2 million developing a special software that police can track down pedophiles that are using the Internet. We want to make our member states aware that this is free.

What about facial recognition technology?

Organizations like Interpol are looking at child images like a photographic fingerprint. Even if you get older or change your appearance, this technology is still going to be able to tell if it is you or not. For example, if a man grows a beard or puts on glasses, the software is so powerful that it is still going to recognize that it is you. This is a very useful tool in child pornography investigations. You can tell if you are looking at the same victim in different videos, or it might be the same victim, but older than in the other videos. It is a very good way of identifying victims and rescuing them in some circumstances.

Who are the perpetrators of these crimes?

Safer Internet Day, Feb. 6. 2007, Poster

As the EU expands cross border co-operation becomes a major issue

Usually, it is men. Depending on what study you look at, you get different profiles. But one of the things that we are very concerned about is that, when we do arrest people, we're finding that the images in their possession are of very young children. Nineteen percent of the images of offenders were found to be of children less than five years old. So this is not a case of people looking at pornographic pictures of people that are 16 or 17 years old, we are talking about very young children.

How do you view the overall situation of child pornography on the Internet in the world today?

Everybody shares the blame. In the USA, there was a husband-and-wife team that was distributing child pornography through the Internet in Texas but all of the images were coming from various countries in eastern Europe. These people were making over a million dollars a month. This is a case where the investigation started in America, but there are several European countries involved. The Internet is so fast, it operates at the speed of light --it is very easy to work with people and other countries instantly.

I think OSCE has recognized that organized crime in general is a very serious threat to all 56 member states. The distribution of child pornography is only one way that organized crime makes money. It is very lucrative, just like drugs and stolen automobiles and the traditional organized crime activities. But this one, of course, has a very tragic human element that the other ones don't.

Why have France, Spain and the United States decided to fund the conference?

These delegations came to us after the ministerial decision (in December 2006). The OSCE recognized this as a serious threat and they were very concerned about our member states having the capacity to combat it. They thought that it is necessary to take action very fast so they gave us donations right away because otherwise we would have to wait for budgets or bureaucratic matters to get this thing off the ground. The ministerial decision was in December 2006 and in February we were holding meetings with these delegations to discuss a way to combat this problem. We are very grateful for the donations.

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