Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Government fights online child abuse
The government has today launched a new law enforcement agency to tackle online child exploitation.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre headed by the former deputy director general of the National Crime Squad, Jim Gamble, will work with charities and IT firms to take down criminally obscene material from the internet.
Internet and online payment firms such as Microsoft, AOL and Visa will also co-operate with CEOP to track down internet sex offenders.
The centre will develop IT systems to track sex offenders and disseminate intelligence globally.
CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble says the launch of the new centre is the most significant development in child protection in years and is a response to an explosion in child abuse.
'What we have to understand is that behind every image online there is a child in the real world being abused. Behind every online chat there is the potential that your child may be speaking to a sex offender. That is a harsh reality,' said Gamble.
The agency will also launch an online awareness campaign to educate parents and children about the risks associated with chat rooms.
CEOP will also have direct input into the development of new security features online, which aim to make browsers and websites safer for children.
While activity by the Internet Watch Foundation has dramatically reduced the number of child abuse images hosted in the UK, paedophiles are also distributing images via chat rooms and emails.
A recent police operation seized over 750,000 obscene images, while over eight million children and young people in the UK use the internet.
'That is not to say of course that the internet isn't a great place. It is a great environment – one that is full of learning and fun opportunities. What we are saying to children, young people and parents is that by putting awareness first you will reduce the opportunities for harm,' said Gamble.
The agency will also increase its fight against the paedophiles spreading the images over the internet, he said.
'If you are a sex offender – get help or get caught. The internet will increasingly expose you to new policing powers and will cease to be the anonymous place that it once was,' said Gamble.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has set up its own young persons website which has been designed and written specifically for young people of secondary school age.
It will at a later date include content and interactive games for primary aged children.
The website is called 'thinkuknow' which you may have heard of already or seen a presentation at school. You can access the site at www.thinkuknow.co.uk.