Unit to target online paedophiles

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Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Crime-fighters and spies are to join forces to tackle persistent paedophiles who use the so-called ‘dark-net’ to share horrific images of child abuse, the Prime Minister will announce today.

A joint specialist unit run by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and listening post GCHQ will target the most prolific offenders who are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to hide their true identities and encrypt and share disturbing pictures and videos of child sexual abuse.

David Cameron will unveil the unit at an online child abuse summit along with new solutions developed by tech-industry giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to track down sex offenders and protect more youngsters.

Mr Cameron said: “Every time someone chooses to view an online image or a video of a child being abused, they are choosing to participate in a horrific crime.

“Every single view represents that victim being abused again. They may as well be in the room with them.

“I want to build a better future for our children. The package I am announcing today is a watershed moment in reducing the volume of child abuse images online. It marks significant progress in delivering a truly world-leading response to a global problem.

“The so-called ‘dark-net’ is increasingly used by paedophiles to view sickening images. I want them to hear loud and clear, we are shining a light on the web’s darkest corners; if you are thinking of offending there will be nowhere for you to hide.”

The dark web includes material on the internet that a search engine cannot access and has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through standard web browsers.

Software such as Tor enable users to access the “dark web” to email and host file storage through encrypted and anonymised networks.

According to Downing Street, the new unit will bring together GCHQ’s technical expertise with NCA’s investigatory skills to develop new capabilities to analyse huge volumes of child abuse imagery hidden on the dark web.

UK daily users to secret or encrypted networks have increased by two-thirds, according to the NCA, who expected to see 20,000 daily UK users in 2013.

GCHQ director Robert Hannigan said: “GCHQ is using its world leading capabilities to help the NCA reach into the’ dark web’ and bring to justice those who misuse it to harm children.

“With the NCA, we are committed to eliminating digital hiding places for child abusers.”

The Prime Minister will also unveil new measures put in place by companies.

Digital fingerprints of thousands of known child sex abuse images identified by charity watchdog, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), will be used by major firms such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Yahoo to prevent images being shared on their services.

Technology which allows known child abuse videos to be identified and blocked from being shared has been developed by Google who will share it with the wider industry, the PM will announce.

Microsoft, Google and Mozilla are to look into browser-level blocking restrictions designed to prevent people accessing web addresses of known child abuse material using Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox.

Antigone Davis, head of global safety at Facebook, said: “Nothing is more important than the safety of the people who use Facebook.

“We fight hard against online child exploitation and have spent ten years building powerful reporting tools and educational resources to help combat this abhorrent activity.”

Matt Brittin, president of Northern and Central Europe at Google, said: “We have been working for years to fight child exploitation online and we aggressively remove child sexual abuse imagery from Google products using our image and video matching technology.

“Over the past 12 months our algorithm changes and deterrent campaign have already led to a fivefold reduction in a number of child sexual abuse image-related queries in search. We will continue to develop technologies and work with others in the industry to tackle this terrible crime.”

The PM will also announce a series of commitments from more than 30 countries to increase law enforcement ability to track more paedophiles and help more victims. This will be supported by a new £50 million Child Protection Fund.

The countries have agreed to set up their own national databases of child sex abuse material or links to the Interpol International CSE Database (ICSE).

Yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May told the summit that so-called snoopers charter laws could have helped law enforcement officers catch more paedophiles online.

Her comments were another clear signal that a Conservative-majority government would revive the communications data bill, which was dropped in 2012 in the face of Liberal Democrat opposition, if it were to come to power at the next general election.

Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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