As the Hotline.ie service operated by the ISP Association of Ireland marks 15 years in operation, the head of that organisation has warned that ‘provocative’ or ‘cheeky’ images which are being generated by children themselves are being used by paedophiles online.
Paul Durrant, CEO of ISPAI and General Manager of Hotline.ie, is our guest on today’s podcast. Click on the player above to listen to the show, or download it here: 25:28; 15MB; MP3.
“Regrettably ours is not the only 15th ‘anniversary’” he says.
“Recently, Hotline.ie received a report that led our Analysts to a web location with hundreds of CSAM images. These were recognised as those of a 4 year old girl whose images had been widely reported around the time Hotline.ie was established. Here they were again, 15 years later, still being shared online by paedophiles. Our Industry is very conscious that circulation of such images constitutes re-victimisation of the children involved even though many are now adults and we are determined to play our part in having these removed from the Internet”.
In this case the victim’s images had been shared over the Internet by her abuser in 1999. Not long after he was tracked down by police in the UK and successfully prosecuted. Known instances of the images were removed from the Internet at the time. Despite the offender being jailed and the victim rescued from the abuse in early 2000, someone had uploaded her images to be encountered at the end of 2014. Though found to be hosted in the USA, the images were notified by Hotline.ie via INHOPE to the US authorities and were removed within 24 hours.
“It saddens me to say this is not a unique occurrence by any means”, continued Durrant, “what is more worrying today is that our Analysts see many sexual images and videos of children where it is clear that they have placed the content online themselves. They are using webcams and many seem to be being reacting to instructions of someone on their screens. We would like to warn children and their parents that these images are likely to be just as persistent as those pictures from 1999.”
These cases clearly demonstrate, he says, that once an image is put on the Internet, the user completely loses control over who saves it, shares it, and misuses it. What is more, notwithstanding the determined efforts to remove them, they can reappear, any place, any time, even many years later.
This does not just apply to images of children that are actually illegal, he explains. In the past few years, Hotline analysts have witnessed a marked increase of sexually provocative self-generated images of children and adolescents turning up on adult pornography forums or sites. These images and videos are (mostly) not illegal but have been copied from the originators’ social networking profiles, placed out of context on adult sites and associated comments show they are being misused by paedophiles. As the material is not in itself illegal, Hotline and law enforcement are largely unable to act.
Given this recent experience, the ISPAI feels it is necessary to raise alarm signals to the public, and parents in particular, that not only can their children’s images end up on inappropriate locations but to be aware of the astounding and prolonged lifespan of content on the Internet.
Children must be taught about protecting their “digital reputation”, says Paul, that is, how they present themselves to the world by their Internet postings. They need to learn to “think before you click” and post to the Internet; this applies as much to photos and videos they take of their friends as those of themselves.
“As an Industry we are committed to fighting criminal misuse of the Internet infrastructure we provide. Hotline.ie is integral to national and international efforts to act against the distribution of CSAM online – notifying ISPs and law enforcement of reported reoccurrences of the old, and the many new, illegal photos and videos of child victims which continue to appear. However, Industry action is only part of the solution, parents must play their part talking to their children and explaining about their own responsibility to protect themselves online by not posting images that are likely to draw the attention of the wrong people”.
Blacknight is a member of ISPAI.