Everyone likes to say that we must protect children. But, when will we really mean it? How many children must be abused before we truly dedicate ourselves to eradicating the scourge? The news today is filled with a terrible case of a global ring of sick pedophiles who used the Internet to order and watch live child sexual abuse from half a world away. (http://ab.co/1j8Z47q ) Offenders number in the hundreds and are all over the world. This ring was discovered by UK police on a “routine” visit to the home of a convicted sex offender in England in 2012. In a turn that should surprise no one, police discovered horrible video images of child sexual abuse on the offender’s computer. These images lead police to the Philippines, where children were being routinely forced into sexual slavery for profit, sometimes by their own parents. Reports indicate an organized crime group in the Philippines was responsible for supplying the children being exploited online for money. This case appears to show good cooperation between police forces from different countries, and I applaud them for their dedication to rescuing children. It is sad, however, that it took so long.
Why did it take from 2012 to now to rescue children and stop the offenders? These technology-driven cases are very complicated to investigate, especially when international borders are crossed. They require adequate funding, training, advanced technology, and personnel. This case shows many weaknesses in governments’ efforts to fight the sexual exploitation of children. It also shows that the Internet industry should be doing more to protect children from those using its technology to degrade, abuse and exploit the most vulnerable. These children were being abused live via the Internet. With hundreds of thousands of images and videos recovered in this case, some of very young children being abused, how could those whose servers and equipment were used to spread this poison not see it? Does technology exist to capture this behavior and flag it? With all the advances in surveillance and spying, it is hard to believe it doesn’t. One minute, I do a Google search for a black silk blouse, and suddenly, for days, I find ads for black silk blouses on every page I visit. Sophisticated technology exists to try and sell me things, but when it comes to selling the sexual slavery of kids, the industry suddenly has no answers. And law enforcement? Law enforcement is always behind the curve of technological advances. As much as government spends on other things, why can’t it invest in cutting-edge technology for this? Why isn’t this a priority? Politicians mouth platitudes about how important children are. So? Show us you mean it!
In the beginning, this case arose from a home visit to a sex offender in England. Setting aside why he wasn’t in prison, or why he was even allowed to use the Internet, why wasn’t his computer use being monitored in real-time? This technology exists. One such product is by Securus Software, and they are in the business of monitoring, in real time, computers of sex offenders. (This company also protects children in schools.) Where are they based? You guessed it, England! Reporting indicates this pedophile was chatting with sick cohorts about moving to the Philippines and becoming ring-leaders for child sexual exploitation. One of his cohorts had collected literally millions of images of child sexual abuse, showing these two were engaged in child exploitation for a long time. If the first offender had been monitored in real-time, perhaps this ring would have been uncovered much earlier, thereby saving some of these children at least some of their agony.
It is the same old story: law enforcement stumbles on images of child sexual abuse (by a previously convicted and should-have-been-incarcerated sicko) and work very hard to uncover the offenders and rescue the children. Meanwhile, the abuse, and dissemination of images of it, has been ongoing for years. This is not law enforcement’s fault. They are moving heaven and earth to find these children once their images are seen. I know some of the dedicated folks at ICE, CEOP and the AFP; they desperately want to rescue children and lock up their offenders. But, lack of resources are a scandalous handicap. There are not nearly enough personnel, funds, and technology being dedicated to finding these children. It is a simple fact: the bad guys are ahead of the good guys. When you have vulnerable children in wildly impoverished countries, organized crime willing to exploit them and their caregivers, pedophiles eager to buy sick thrills, and law enforcement handicapped by a lack of funding, technology, training, and personnel, as well as legislative and international jurisdictional barriers, the result is the sexual slavery of children.
Nelson Mandela said “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Our soul must be stained today. Unless something changes, the stain will only grow.