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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 11:46 GMT
Web police to fight paedophiles
By Neil Bennett
BBC Crime Correspondent

Police and major internet companies around the world have launched a website on which children can report their suspicions about the activities of possible paedophiles.

A computer user
Police may pilot a 24-hour online paedophile monitoring scheme

Microsoft and AOL will put a link on their websites to the Virtual Global Task Force (VGTF), which is run by international law enforcement agencies and where police officers will be able to gather evidence.

Vodafone and BT have joined the UK's

National Crime Squad (NCS) as partner agencies.

People accessing the internet via their mobile phones will also be able to click on to the logo of the VGTF.

If youngsters or their parents are worried that paedophiles might be trying to contact them, they will be able to click on the logo.

They will then be told how to get the IP address and user name of the person they are concerned about - these and the contents of the online dialogue can be used as evidence if police decide to prosecute.

But they can also use the information to warn offenders.

We are the sheriff of the world wide web
Jim Gamble
NCS deputy director general

Police hope to deter those they describe as the "curiously deviant" so they can concentrate on the more serious internet paedophiles.

Senior officers have likened this web link to the front door of an online police station.

Jim Gamble, deputy director general of NCS, said: "We want to send a message to paedophiles that the internet is not a safe place for them to operate.

"It used to be like the old wild west where anybody could do anything. But then the sheriff came along to impose law and order. We are the sheriff of the world wide web."

VGTF logo
Concerned parents will be able to click on the VGTF logo

The VGTF was launched in 2003 as a direct response to lessons learned from investigations into online child abuse around the world.

It is an international alliance of law enforcement agencies comprising the NCS in the UK, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Australia's Hi-Tech Crime Centre, the US Department of Security and Interpol.

Other initiatives being worked on by the task force include plans to have police officers online 24 hours a day to monitor paedophile activity.

They could also respond immediately if contacted by people clicking on to the VGTF logo.

They have also launched Operation PIN - a honeytrap website designed to catch and warn people trying to download pornographic images from the internet.

How the website works

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