The AFP has joined forces with INTERPOL to step up the fight against child exploitation around the world, rolling out the significant enhancement of a critical international database in Melbourne on Wednesday (9 November 2022).
The AFP will contribute $815,000 in funding to INTERPOL to support the implementation of enhanced capabilities for INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database.
The ICSE is a ground-breaking tool to advance child exploitation investigations through strengthened global information sharing.
The upgrade of the INTERPOL-managed database, known as ICSE Next Generation, is designed to speed up the process by which investigators identify victims of child exploitation from online child exploitation material seized from offenders or identified in online forums.
Launched 13 years ago and utilised by 68 countries worldwide, the database has identified more than 31,000 victims to date, including 860 victims in Australia. On average, around seven victims are identified every day.
In addition, over 14,000 offenders have been tracked and arrested by law enforcement, including 349 offenders in Australia.
The database is expected to significantly expedite the high volume of work undertaken by victim identification specialists, through integration of the latest technologies for improved text, audio and video analysis, facial recognition, and artificial intelligence.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the AFP’s partnership with INTERPOL to support the upgrade of the database highlighted the commitment of law enforcement to protecting children around the world, while bringing offenders to justice.
“We know we can’t win this important battle alone. The advancement of this database is a game changer for how law enforcement around the world can work together to protect our society’s most vulnerable – our children,” he said.
Commissioner Kershaw said child protection investigations would be bolstered with law enforcement agencies avoiding duplication of effort by triaging online child exploitation material multiple times in multiple jurisdictions.
“This specialised tool means our investigators will be faster and more efficient than ever before, allowing us to quickly target, track and disrupt those seeking to harm and exploit children around the world - and most importantly, bring them to justice.
“The AFP is proud to partner with INTERPOL, along with our state, Commonwealth and international law enforcement counterparts, to combat this insidious crime.
INTERPOL Secretary General Mr Jürgen Stock said, “The AFP’s decision to provide this funding underlines its strong and unwavering commitment to child protection, as well as its confidence in INTERPOL’s ICSE database which is a vital policing tool.
“We are seeing a consistent, and worrying, increase in the amount of online child sexual abuse and exploitation material, where every image is evidence of a crime. Only through global cooperation, supported by the latest technologies can law enforcement effectively work to identify and rescue victims around the world.”
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and AFP Child Protection Operations contribute to the ICSE database, ensuring that investigators in other countries can benefit from the work undertaken in Australia to help identify victims.
The ACCCE Victim Identification Unit (VIU) acts as the conduit between Australian state and territory law enforcement agencies and the ICSE database.
In May 2022, the ACCCE VIU hosted the third National Victim Identification Taskforce, during which more than 3,500 files were de-conflicted against the ICSE database, with images from 55 newly-identified victims added for potential identification.
Under the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse, the AFP is delivering a range of initiatives which will enhance and bolster law enforcement capabilities and operational efforts, to drive a collaborative national response to counter the exploitation of children.
The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.
The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.
Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.
Research conducted by the ACCCE in 2020 revealed only about half of parents talked to their children about online safety.
An award-winning podcast launched last year by the ACCCE 'Closing The Net' is working to change that, showcasing that knowledge is power and that our only chance to help prevent this issue is if we bring a 'whole-of-community' response.
The podcast series offers valuable tips and advice on how to keep kids safe online. Listen to the Closing The Net podcast on your favourite streaming platform.
If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available at www.accce.gov.au/support.
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.
Note to media:
Use of term 'CHILD ABUSE' MATERIAL NOT 'CHILD PORNOGRAPHY'
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297