The Child Exploitation Tracking System designed by Microsoft to assist law enforcement agents, civil servants and children themselves combat sexual exploitation over the internet was introduced to Thai police at a workshop conducted by Canadian law enforcement personnel recently in Bangkok. The software helps generate evidence that can be used in investigations and applied in court to help prosecute offenders.Suzanne Williams, deputy and legal director of the International Institute for Child Rights and Development and who was part of the Canadian entourage, noted with concern how the virtual world was currently impacting upon children around the globe, making it all the more necessary to build a network of partners to create protection for children and their rights.
“When the medium of communication is much more anonymously linked, it could make a virtual world where there is more unsupervised access for children and their predators, [making] a recipe for harming children unless we take steps to protect and prevent things from happening. When one website with images of children being sexually exploited is taken down, the next one comes up. Victims of child exploitation online are getting younger and it is getting more violent and obviously that is a real concern. It’s a global problem as there are no boundaries. This is why we have to equip our law enforcement with the right tools.”
Williams, a lawyer by profession, says that to address this issue, one has to get to the core of the problem by working as a team, including everyone from NGOs, law enforcement, government and private sectors and families and communities to kids themselves. If we don’t listen to our children and what their realities are in this virtual world we can never find solutions to meet these challenges. There is a real need to engage young people as partners and understand what they are doing, so that the right solutions are developed. Most importantly, adults _ including parents, teachers and counsellors _ have to win their trust. It is not easy for teenagers to deal with the complexities that face them on a daily basis. Building trust between a parent and child is never easy because, as adults, we feel the best way to protect them is to monitor their every move, but this can often be counterproductive. After setting guidelines, let them explore and make mistakes and learn from them. But the bottom line is to let them know you are there for them.
To protect one’s children from the evils of online exploitation, Williams advises parents to listen to their youngsters, create a space where they can share their concerns and fears. Without being judgmental, they should see how their child is using technology and try to understand things from their perspective. Collectively finding solutions and options in the face of a problem they might encounter while online is also a crucial stage in this learning process.
Loving and caring relationships are critical to a child’s development. To protect your child from online predators, it is pivotal for them to be equipped with the right knowledge. When we speak with youngsters, it is imperative to leave dos and don’ts out of the conversation.
Parents can keep a tab on their children’s online activities without being controlling or intrusive.
Williams hopes that Thailand will continue to create better awareness to protect children from cyber crime. New technology helps to keep a close watch on criminals and is a valuable tool for law enforcement. However, a team effort is required.
Apart from prosecuting perpetrators, it is the duty of state law enforcement officials _ including lawyers, policemen and judges _ to make sure a child victim knows his or her rights.
Counselling should be available when the need arises. Children under 18 are considered minors, which means that even if they consent to indulging in a lurid act deemed unlawful, they will not be faulted due to their age. It is the duty of adults to know better.
NetClean _ a technical solution from Sweden which blocks the spread of child sexual abuse content on the internet_ was introduced to Thailand last year. The Thai hotel industry, in particular, showed keen interest on acquiring their services.
Their client portfolio includes both small to multi-national companies, authorities, internet providers and police services.
At the time, Grand Millennium Sukhumvit hotel Bangkok and Six Senses Resorts & Spas installed NetClean software in their computer systems. Other hotels have also followed suit since then.
Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, the founders of Six Senses Resorts & Spas, threw their support behind the technical solution by saying that was a a vital first step to stop a reprehensible global epidemic. While Thomas Christiansen, General Manager of Grand Millennium Sukhumvit, said that hotels must do everything within their power to stop all forms of child abuse.
Both hotels set up NetClean Child Abuse Free Zone, the software that is designed especially for hotels and which operates on the guest and/or conference network. The software recognises and blocks child sexual abuse images and videos through comparison with material classified by the police.