WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The Virtual Global Taskforce's (VGT) board of management applauded announcements made at a U.K. summit this week by government and industry leaders interested in combating online child sexual exploitation. The VGT is currently chaired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Board members of the VGT, a group of law enforcement agencies from around the globe dedicated to fighting online child sexual abuse, are currently meeting in Willington on a range of issues.
During the summit, the Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Criminal Division and the U.K. Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice agreed to jointly chair a new taskforce, which calls upon experts from industry, law enforcement and academia to define a series of technological challenges to tackling the production, dissemination and possession of indecent images of children, and preventing online sexual exploitation of children, including the exploitation of children on social networks.
Also during the summit, Microsoft and Google announced changes to their search engines to prevent images, videos or pathways to child abuse being returned during Internet searches. Microsoft is preventing all child abuse images, videos and pathways from Bing and Yahoo! searches of blacklist terms supplied by the U.K.'s National Crime Agency (NCA), and are working now on a rapid expansion of this approach to block all child abuse content against a much wider list of search terms.
"Tackling child sexual exploitation effectively has to be a concerted and joined up effort by law enforcement, government, international partners, industry and others. Today is a graphic demonstration of that in action," said NCA Director General Keith Bristow. "Not only are victims harmed in the making of these images, they are re-harmed every time they are shared and viewed. That is why removing them and blocking access to them is so important." The NCA's CEOP command is a founding member of the VGT.
Google's changes also prevent child abuse results against 100,000 unique searches worldwide. These search changes will be rolled out in 159 languages over the next six months.
The two companies have also implemented warning messages that appear when Internet users enter the blacklist search terms and are working to remove illegal images and videos from the Internet and to help law enforcement tackle issues related to sharing of child abuse images and videos via peer-to-peer networks.
A second summit is planned for next year to bring together governments, law enforcement, charities and industry to follow up on the agreements reached this week.
VGT law enforcement member agencies are: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Australian Federal Police; the United Kingdom’s NCA Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command; the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, a division of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service; New Zealand Police; INTERPOL; Europol; the Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates; the Dutch National Police; the Korean National Police; and the Indonesian National Police.
VGT private partners are: End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes network (ECPAT International); International Association of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE); the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC); International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), PayPal, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, World Vision Australia, Blackberry, The Code, Kids Internet Safety Alliance (KINSA) and. NetClean.