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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:33 GMT
Q&A: Child pornography crackdown
The world's largest collaborative policing operation to root out child pornography has resulted in dawn raids on suspected paedophiles in England and Scotland. The BBC's Jon Silverman looks at the extent of police operation.

How big an operation was this?

The police are calling this the biggest internet paedophile operation of its kind.

Forces in 19 countries (on four continents - Europe, America, Asia, Australia) have been liaising via Interpol for the last 10 months.

The target was to arrest 130 people worldwide suspected of involvement in downloading and distributing child porn on the internet.

How many arrests were there in this country?

In the UK, there were raids this morning by nine police forces (one in Scotland, eight in England). So far, nine people have been arrested - more may follow. In all, 12 people were being targeted.

What other countries are involved?

There is not a complete list of countries involved but they included US, Australia, Canada, Russia, France and Korea.

Could this be the biggest ring so far?

Police are not saying this is an "organised ring" of users, but the basis of this trade is swapping images with other people.

The "organised" element is the actual abuse of children and videoing for transmission on the internet.

It is clearly big business.

The police have discovered 60,000 fresh images - ones which they had never come across before - as a result of this operation.

Why is this operation significant?

The operation is so significant because it is the first to make use of sophisticated facial mapping software which compares facial characteristics and enables the police to identify child victims.

It also allows them to pinpoint the locations where some of the abuse has taken place such as specific rooms.

Why are ISPs not doing more to regulate their customers and their activities?

Regulation is difficult for the ISPs.

The umbrella group for the industry, the Internet Watch Foundation, is closely involved in regulating / monitoring, but it may require legislation to require users to submit their real name when they log on.

Some bona fide ISPs do this - they are only open to subscription which needs credit / bank account details, but others (like the 33 targeted) are open to all and sundry.

To be effective, regulation / legislation has to be done on a global basis.

It is constantly under discussion at forums like the UN, EU etc, but harmonising the laws of different countries with different cultural outlooks on the problem is proving slow and cumbersome.

See also:

28 Nov 01 | England
Police raid suspected paedophiles
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