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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 09:39 GMT
Global weapon to fight child net porn
Young girl surfing the internet
Government keen to protect children online
Police forces around the globe will soon be using software developed in Britain as part of the worldwide fight against child pornography.

It is part of an initiative from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to tackle pornography in Eastern Europe and South East Asia, where much of the indecent imagery of children comes from.

SurfControl, based in Cheshire, originally developed its filtering software to aid UK police in the investigation of online child abuse.

The software allows police to trace and target people who seek, possess or distribute pornographic images of children on the net.

Abhorred crime


We stand as a formidable force able to target, identify and bring to justice those involved in this abhorred crime

Mick Deats, National Hi-Tech Crime Unit
It was used in the widely publicised Operation Appal, in which 40 suspects were arrested. It also played a crucial role in Operation Magenta, a nationwide crackdown on child abuse on the net which resulted in 75 arrests.

Now the software will be exported to police forces in Eastern Europe and South East Asia. Officers from Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit will be on hand to train police in Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, The Philippines and Thailand among others.

"While many countries recognise that material is being generated from within their borders, most do not have the sophisticated tools and the manpower required to trace and investigate suspects," said a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"We are in a position to help them, which in turn will work to protect all societies from the damage done by those abusing children," the spokesperson added.

Deputy Head of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit Detective Superintendent Mick Deats said countries needed to work together.

"Child abuse online is a global problem which requires a global solution," he said.

By working together in partnership with industry and government, we stand as a formidable force able to target, identify and bring to justice those involved in this abhorred crime."

Getting tough


There is no justification for any newsgroup containing or claiming to contain child pornography,

Hilary Benn, Home Office Minister
In the UK, the porn watchdog, the Internet Watch Foundation, has urged action against more than 50 newsgroups that it says either carry pictures of child abuse or advocate paedophilia.

The IWF is recommending to all UK internet service providers that these newsgroups be removed from their servers.

The information has been gathered following extensive research although the lists remain strictly confidential.

The government has welcomed the move and urged ISPs to get rid of the offending newsgroups.

"Child protection is of the highest priority to the government," said Home Office Minister Hilary Benn in a statement.

"There is no justification for any newsgroup containing or claiming to contain child pornography," he said.

Criticism

The IWF has come in for criticism in the past for failing to have any real teeth in the fight against child abuse on the net.

Several of its board resigned, amid concerns that its tough new policy on newsgroups could lead to innocent sites being banned.

Chief Executive Officer of the IWF Peter Robbins said the group remained committed to the fight against net paedophiles.

"We are determined to do everything we can to help prevent the dissemination of child abuse images on the internet," he said.

The UK Government looks likely to introduce new laws to prevent paedophiles using the web to 'groom' children for inappropriate sexual relationships.

It follows pressure from children's charities and others over the use of chatrooms and instant messaging by paedophiles.

See also:

24 Oct 02 | England
22 Sep 02 | N Ireland
16 Sep 02 | N Ireland
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