x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Centre an asset in fight against online child sex abuse, UAE forum hears

International forum on child exploitation online held in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // A US-based organisation that tracks images of child sexual abuse online does not share information with the UAE.

American internet service providers and companies such as Google and Facebook are required by United States law to report child pornography to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

The centre receives 5,000 to 8,000 reports a week, Michelle Collins, vice president of NCMEC's exploited child division, told the Virtual Global Taskforce Conference, an international forum about online child exploitation held in Abu Dhabi.

These are forwarded to 61 other countries so officials can pursue investigations. As yet, the UAE is not one of them.

But NCMEC forwards reports from outside those countries to Interpol, which can work with local authorities.

Six years ago, about one fifth of the cases reported were traced to people outside the US. So far this year, 77 per cent of reports involved other countries.

"The impact of American law has a global reach for all of us," Ms Collins told the conference, which ended at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr yesterday.

Jon Peacock, senior inspector of publications in New Zealand, cited an example of reports from Facebook that involved an IP address in his country.

NCMEC forwarded the information to New Zealand, where investigators traced the address to a home and obtained a search warrant. The man they found was 73.

"He had a nasty collection of child abuse images sitting on his machine," said Mr Peacock.

Investigators also discovered he had been communicating with a teenage girl and recording their interactions using a webcam.

"He had seduced and groomed her to the point that she was performing sexual acts on camera that he was then recording," Mr Peacock said.

Investigators also found recordings of another man in the US abusing his young daughters.

The case was referred back to the American authorities and the children were found.

"All of them have been rescued from that situation," Mr Peacock said.

"Had it not been for the report, I doubt I would have ever known about that offender in our jurisdiction."

vnereim@thenational.ae