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The National Crime Agency (NCA) ranked Britain as the third largest consumer of child pornographic material coming behind Canada and the United States. Most of the pornographic content is mostly uploaded on platforms based in the US. Majority of the children subjected to the abuse and exploitation are from Asian countries mainly the Philippines. The agency witnessed an increase in the number of Britons viewing the child abuse images.
The agency in collaboration with other law enforcement units recorded an average of 400 arrests on a monthly basis in England and Wales. The arrests reportedly resulted in the rescue of 500 children, and to concentrate on stopping high-risk pedophiles the agency called upon tech companies to aid in the fight by stopping pedophiles from uploading images.
According to the NCA’s director of vulnerabilities, Will Kerr internet service providers and hosting platforms should not only identify and report images they find in their servers to law enforcement, but they should also prevent them from being posted in the first place. The agency received over 80,000 referrals to child abuse images in 2017 alone.
Availability of encryption techniques and the dark web has contributed to the growth of the child abuse industry as pedophiles have been enabled to browse anonymously. The existence of live streams where children are exploited in the presence of a live audience in the United Kingdom and all over the world, took child pornography to another level since pedophiles have been able to make orders in real time. Through Livestream platforms, pedophiles choose the color, ethnicity and even the dressing of the children being abused.
According to Robert Jones of NCA’s child exploitation command, most of the images are usually recirculated and that the agency is always monitoring for the presence of new images and removes them to ensure they don’t appear again. This has helped in identifying and aiding the children being abused where possible.
Mr. Jones used Dr. Matthew Falder who used the dark web to successfully commit sexual offenses as an example of how encryption and the dark web has contributed to the growth in viewing and access of children pornographic material in Britain. Falder, a Cambridge University graduate, blackmailed his victims into taking images of themselves in compromising positions and commit extreme sexual acts. He targeted vulnerable children and young people. He was able to blackmail up to 300 individuals.
Falder used anonymous email accounts to obtain compromising images from his victims. After acquiring images, he posted them on the dark web for other pedophiles to view. To acquire more images from his victims he threatened to send the images he already had to parents and friends of the victims. His crimes were so heinous that three of his victims attempted suicide. Falder’s victims were mainly from Britain and others parts of the world including the US.
Falder was busted after an international multi agency task force was set up in August 2015 involving the NCA, GCHQ, Homeland security, Europol and Australian Federal Police. Together they investigated a dark web child abuse forum user going by the pseudonym ‘’666devil”. Falder was very good at covering his tracks since he was only identified as a suspect in April 2017 nearly two years after the task force was formed. He was finally arrested in June 2017 after which he was charged 188 times over, 137 of which he pled guilty.
Falder found joy in inflicting pain and was made to pay after he was sentenced to 32 years in prison for his heinous crimes. Through the dark web child pornography forums, Falder was able to share the images he coerced from his victims, highlighting the great role anonymity and encryption plays in promoting child exploitation and abuse.
The NCA believes that if tech companies took the responsibility of ensuring no child abuse images were uploaded, it would be possible to save thousands of children from exploitation and enable the agency to concentrate on busting high-risk offenders like Falder. The agency pledged not to hesitate in arresting any offenders and called for support from other countries such as the Philippines where most of the victims are from.