Keynote by Ernie Allen

About the author:

Ernie Allen is an adviser to governments, law enforcement, technology companies and others on the digital economy, public-private partnerships and child protection.  Appointed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, he chairs the global initiative WePROTECT to combat online child abuse and exploitation.  He is a founder and the former President and CEO of NCMEC (the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children), and ICMEC (the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children).

More than 3,100 children rescued

Keynote by Ernie Allen, Chairs the global initiative WePROTECT

When I read NetClean’s 2017 Law Enforcement Survey and reviewed the results, I saw that two things stand out. Crucially, you can measure the impact of the past years’ progress in human lives. Results from the report shows that in 2016 more than 3,100 children were identified and rescued through the use of technology and international collaboration, an 93.4% increase over 2015. Secondly, the key is collaboration; collecting and sharing information across the globe.

The NetClean Report is unique in the way that it gathers and contextualises data collected from law enforcement professionals across the globe who specialise in fighting child sexual exploitation. The report adds important value and insight by producing a better understanding of the problem of child sexual abuse, leading to relevant and informed actions and innovative technological developments, assisting law enforcement to address this serious and complex problem.

I chair the International Advisory Board for the WePROTECT Global Alliance. At its beginning the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, “the online exploitation of children is happening on an almost industrial scale”. He called it “a major international crime of our age.”

Yet, too few understand that reality. Prior to the internet, someone with sexual interest in children felt isolated, aberrant, alone. Today, he is part of a global community. He interacts online with people of like interests worldwide. They share images, fantasies, techniques, even real children. And they do it all with virtual anonymity.

We are at a pivotal moment. Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, mostly for the better. Yet, there is a dark side. Technology also facilitates the exploitation of children, and it creates enforcement gaps. We have to change that. We have to catch up. We have to innovate.

Finding solutions is difficult. The sheer volume of child sexual abuse material exceeds what any of us ever thought possible. And it is growing and changing. It is moving from central servers to peer-to-peer networks; from PCs to mobile devices; from commercial to non-commercial distribution; from traceable to anonymous; and from local and national, to global.

Peer-to-peer / P2P file sharing is a way to directly share files between two or more people without having to store the files on a central server.

Child sexual abuse material online is a problem that cannot be solved by one country, one agency or one discipline acting alone. It requires collaboration. It needs more research, more data, more analysis, and above all, it needs more innovation.

Indeed, technological innovation is the key to preventing the proliferation of child sexual abuse online. When I first met Christian Berg he had just launched NetClean with the ambitious goal to confront the explosion of child sexual abuse material on the internet. The progress has been remarkable. Multinational companies, government agencies, internet service providers, and law enforcement professionals now use NetClean and its sister company, Griffeye’s, tools.

That is why NetClean is even more important today than it was in 2003 when it opened its doors. NetClean has made extraordinary progress toward achieving the bold vision Christian Berg and his co-founders laid out in 2003.  It has changed the lives of thousands of children. However, NetClean’s work has only just begun.