Computer Crime Research Center


Fighting online child porn

Date: May 23, 2005
Source: THE STAR

Toronto police had been seeking "the girl in the pictures" for months. She appeared in nearly 200 images traded over the Internet by those who took sick pleasure in her sexual abuse. Investigators had watched the girl, thought to be about 10 years old in the earliest photographs, grow. And they desperately wanted to rescue her from the horrors she endured.

Seeking a break in the case, police used controversial, but ultimately effective, methods. They released photos, with the girl digitally removed, of a location where some of the assaults had occurred, and of a different girl believed to be a witness in the case.

Protect your children online now!

Earlier this month, they received the news they had wanted to hear: The girl is safe. Her adoptive father, her alleged abuser, is in prison and she has been in foster care in Pennsylvania for two years.

The case shows that determined and painstaking work by investigators who fight online child pornography does pay off. That the girl had already been rescued, however, highlights weaknesses in the tools available to investigators, who must collaborate with colleagues across the country and around the world to combat a horrific crime that knows no borders.

One of the great challenges of fighting online child exploitation is that abusers and victims may live in Toronto or halfway around the world. Police in Canada, the United States and other countries joined in 2003 to create the Virtual Global Taskforce to collaborate on the issue. But police admit they must co-ordinate more effectively with international forces.

Another challenge is that those who traffic in child porn expertly use the Internet to hide their tracks. Police typically struggle to keep up.
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