CLIA’s Child Law Webinar Series No. 4, “Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Material in the Digital Age”
3 February 2021, Child Law International Alliance (CLIA) and Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center (BCLARC) jointly held the fourth Child Law Webinar. This time, seven experts from Internet Watch Foundation, ECPAT, INTERPOL, etc., focused on the intractable issue of online child sexual exploitation and abuse material (online CSEAM). With over 100 attendees from 23 countries, the webinar explored the up-to-date measures and transnational solutions to identify, report and investigate online child sexual exploitation and abuse material (CSEAM).
“Digital development has increased the difficulty of tackling CSEAM,” said Mr Lihua Tong, director of the CLIA. Ms Rangsima Deesawade from ECPAT International concurred with his view, emphasising that online CSEAM “is an international concern that goes beyond boundaries.” Their welcome address revealed the increasing challenges of eliminating CSEAM in the digital environment.
Mr Xiaoming Zhang, Deputy Director-General of International Cooperation Department of Ministry of Justice of China, first expressed his gratitude for being invited to the conference. He pointed out that preventing and combating crimes against children should be a universal concern and consensus of the international community. And international cooperation should be established in five aspects:
- First, intergovernmental cooperation based on, for example, the bilateral criminal judicial assistance treaty, the extradition treaty, and the police and procuratorial cooperation memorandum.
- Second, cooperation between governments and international (intergovernmental) organisations. For example, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the United Nations Convention against Corruption have more than 180 member states, and INTERPOL has established a cooperation platform for more than 190 police organisations.
- Third, cooperation between governments and related enterprises, such as Internet Service Providers and financial companies.
- Fourth, cooperation between governments and non-governmental organisations,
- Fifth, cooperation between governments, as one side, and schools, parents and families, as the other side.
Based on his abundant experience in international criminal justice practice, he argued that international cooperation in this field should be enhanced at three points:
- First, vis-à-vis fugitives and defendants, measures such as extradition and repatriation should be used to achieve cross-border and cross-state pursuit and arrest.
- Second, considering that acquiring criminal proceeds is one of the main objects of crimes against children, it is of great significance to criminal assets through criminal financial investigation mechanisms. In the past few years, the Chinese government’s financial anti-money laundering intelligence authorities have signed a number of memorandums with financial intelligence agencies (FIU) in other countries and regions.
- Third, the evidence is a key element of conviction and sentencing. Any evidence, especially electronic evidence materials, can be collected through police-police cooperation, procuratorial cooperation, and international criminal judicial assistance such as via International Criminal Police.
Concluding his speech, Mr Zhang called on governments and relevant international organisations to:
- strengthen cooperation in legislation, judicial proceedings, law enforcement, and information collection related to child crimes,
- Increase the cost of crime and lower the threshold of conviction,
- Significantly reduce the proceeds of criminal activities and criminal groups.
- Promote the negotiation of a “United Nations Convention against Child Crime” under the UN framework.
Ms Shuaishuai Niu from BCLARC kicked off the discussion by clarifying terminologies. She argued the child pornography, child prostitute, and child sex worker were not appropriate terms, as they could imply the child’s consent to these acts or shift blame on the child.
As a child rights lawyer in China, Ms Niu also elaborated on Chinese legislations concerning CSEAM, mainly the Criminal Law of PRC, Law of the PRC on the Protection of Minors, and relevant judicial interpretations and regulation. In detail, Article 367 of Criminal Law of PRC defines pornographic materials as obscene books, periodicals, movies, video-and audio-tapes, pictures, etc., that explicitly depict sexual behaviours or undisguisedly publicise pornographic materials. Relevant crimes include, for example, production, duplication, publication, selling and distribution of pornographic materials. the Criminal Law does not criminalise possession of CSEAM. She examined Chinese law on CSEAM with the five criteria of model legislation put forward by ICMEC in Child Sexual Abuse Material: Model Legislation & Global Review and noted: “Child pornography is covered by China’s criminal legislation and relevant crimes are subject to severe punishment. However, there is no separate law or definition exclusively on child pornography, except for the Judicial Interpretation.”
Ms Niu also reviewed the latest revisions to the Law on the Protection of Minors of the PRC. In particular, this revised law expressly prohibits “possession” of CSEAM in Article 52. Article 80 provides for Internet Service Providers’ duties to promptly remove content detrimental to children’s physical and mental health, including the CSEAM, keep the relevant record and report to the police. She considered these revisions as a praiseworthy move.
Ms Susie Hargreaves
Ms Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), introduced the IWF’s services and mechanisms for reporting and removing CSEAM. She told attendees that IWF’s main services include providing updated URL blocking lists consisting of the webpages containing child sexual abuse content host inside and outside the UK. Through the mechanism of “Notice and Takedown”, IWF send immediate alerts to the UK host of illegal content and required removal in 2 hours. On the global scale, IWF holds 43 international reporting portals, of which 22 are in Africa, and cooperates with NCMEC, INHOPE and INTERPOL in removing child abuse images. She noted that IWF’s another service was hashed list. IWF shares hashes with the internet industry to prevent individuals from upload images that were already identified as sexual abuse images.
Ms Hargreaves gave attendees a fact-based review of IWF’s work and findings in the past year. In 2020, IWF analysts processed 299,600 reports, which showed an increase of 15% compared with 2019 (260,426). Out of those reports, 153,650 contained images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. (16% increase on 2019 (132,730)). Notably, 68,000 reported were tagged as including “self-generated” content, which was an increase of 77% compared with 2019 (38,424). She revealed that, according to IWF’s data in 2019, the majority of victims were girls, and the youngest children were proportionally more likely to be seen suffering the most severe forms of abuse
Ms Hargreaves ended her speech with a brief introduction to IWF’s staff and the welfare system supporting their work.
Mr Uri Sadeh, Coordinator of INTERPOL Crimes against Children Unit, introduced this Unit’s work of victim identification. The centrepiece of the victim identification work is INTERPOL’S International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, which currently documents nearly 25,000 victims and connected 64 countries. The ICSE database allows hands-on investors from different jurisdictions to share information and work jointly. “we want to avoid the situation where officers reinvestigate a case that their colleagues in a different country have already sold,” Mr Sadech said, “We want them to focus on material still unidentified.” Keeping pace with technical development, the Crimes against Children Unit coordinates practitioners from academia, industries and the law enforcement domain to create innovative solutions for crime investigations. Concluding his speech, Mr Sadeh stressed that cooperation with China is very welcomed, and he was glad that the webinar invites Mr Zhang from the Chinese law enforcement agency.
Richard Daynes and June Liu
The next two speakers focused on the US legislation and practice. Mr Richard Daynes works as a Resident Legal Advisor at the US Department of Justice. His speech was centred on the US federal statutes on child exploitation. He reviewed the CSEAM-related crimes defined therein, including but not limited to production, distribution, reception, and possession of an image of child pornography, obscene visual depictions of children and transfer of obscene materials to a minor. He also introduced that convicted offenders of some child pornography crimes face statutory minimum 5 or 10 years in prison up to life imprisonment. For example, a first-time offender convicted of transporting child pornography faces in interstate or foreign commerce faces a statutory minimum of 5 years, and an offender of distributing child pornography faces a minimum of 15 years.
Ms June Liu is a US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent. She is currently involved in Operation Test Pilot, an investigation utilising various techniques along with usual ways to infiltrate child pornography sites. Ms Liu brought insights into real cases. In 2014, HSI discovered multiple forms of advertising, offering and exchanging child pornography in darknet. In 2016, HIS office in Beijing began to work jointly with the Cybersecurity Department of the Ministry of Public Security of China (MPS) and arrested two Chinese offenders of child pornography. In November 2016, HSI and MPS Cybersecurity Department presented cases to the INTERPOL specialist group on crimes against children at its 34th Meeting. These actions facilitated information sharing between MPS, HIS and INTERPOL.
Ms Sunhye Kang
The last speaker, Ms Sunhye Kang, a contributing activist at TACTEEN/ECPAT Korea, focused on the Nth Room Case and the legislative changes in South Korea thereafter. The Nth room case was a criminal case where the perpetrators abused the private information of victims and forced them to produce sexual exploitation material. It was uncovered in early 2020. The victims were mostly women, including teenagers and girls. The offenders used private chat rooms on Telegram to distribute sexual exploitation images. After the report of the Nth room case, over 5 million people signed the national petition to request the government to disclose the offenders’ information and impose punishment. This action triggered revision to the law, mainly the Nth Room Prevent Act, which raised the maximum term of penalty for producing and circulating sexually exploitative videos from 5 years to 7 years and punished possession of CSEAM. The existing statutory laws concerning CSEAM are also revised:
- Terminological change: “child pornography” in the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offenses is changed to “child sex exploitation material”.
- Increased protection of children: Punishment for convicted offenders who bought the sex of a child or youth or enticed a child or youth to prostitute in Article 38 of the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offenses becomes harsher. Counselling Facilities for victims are now open to all children.
- Enhance governmental duties: Article 53-2 of the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth against Sex Offenses requires the Minister of Gender Equality and Family to conduct research on CSEAM.
- Internet Service Providers’ obligations: Article 22-5 of the Telecommunications Business Act requires a service provider to delete, block access, or take any appropriate measures to prevent the distribution of CSEAM, etc.