Germany plans to use fake child porn to snare pedophiles | News | DW | 22.11.2019
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Germany plans to use fake child porn to snare pedophiles

Employing computer-generated child pornography to identify darknet users is not without ethical controversy. Nonetheless, the plan to give investigators greater power appears to have enough support to enter law.

Germany plans to give undercover investigators the power to use fake child pornography to detect pedophile predators on the dark internet, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said Thursday.

"Investigators will be able to use computer-generated images in the future, if crimes cannot be detected in another way," Lambrecht told Die Welt newspaper.

Read moreGerman authorities turn to AI to combat child pornography online

Many darknet websites peddling child pornography require users to upload pictures or videos to gain access, making it difficult for undercover investigators to enter the criminal forums.

Lambrecht said lawmakers wanted to give investigators all the legally permissible means available so that perpetrators and portal operators can be quickly identified and convicted.

Read moreDarknet, the shady internet

"We are now laying the legal foundations, and we must never forget that behind child pornographic images are terrible acts of abuse against children," Lambrecht said, adding that computer-generated images would look like real photos, but would never show actual children. 

Read moreHundreds arrested in global dark web child pornography investigation

Legal experts from the governing Christian Democrat and Social Democrat coalition agreed on the reforms in October. It will be added to a law on cyber grooming — when an adult befriends a child online with the intention of later carrying out sexual abuse — being debated in parliament. The package is expected to pass before Christmas.

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Controversial tactic 

Despite the good intentions, there are reservations about using fake images depicting exploited children.

"The goal should actually be to eliminate child pornography material from the internet, and not to enrich it with computer-generated material," said Stephan Thomae, the deputy leader of the opposition Free Democrats' parliamentary group.

Read more'Elysium' child porn case: More powers for prosecutors?

However, computer-generated content is an appropriate means of combating child pornography on the internet that should not be withheld from investigators, he said.

The Green party has rejected the proposal. Although investigative powers need to be strengthened, crimes should not be fought with other crimes, said Green party legal expert Canan Bayram.

She fears that the use of fake child pictures may increase the threshold necessary to enter illegal websites.

The federal child sexual abuse commissioner, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, cautiously backed the proposal. He said representations of child sexual abuse should be used as a last resort and on a case by case basis.

He advised that there be ethnical limits on the nature and severity of computer-generated child pornography.

cw/rt (AFP, dpa)

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