The founder of an international taskforce, established to tackle child pornography distribution rings, has urged law enforcement authorities to focus on the crime, rather than the technology over which it was committed.
The Virtual Global Taskforce’s original definition of the internet, according to Jim Gamble, remained vital to the international consortium’s ability to successfully fight crime.
“The internet is just another public space,” he said. “The technology itself is neutral; too often we blame the technology or people appear to blame the technology on our behalf, or the internet service provider that provides a means for people to communicate.
“The defining character is the people that occupy it.”
Gamble, who this month will step down as chief executive of the United Kingdom Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, helped to form the Virtual Global Taskforce out of the government department in 2003 in order to capitalise on technology to better collaborate internationally.
Gamble was replaced as chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce by Australian Federal Police High Tech Crime Operations national manager, Neil Gaughan, in December 2009.
The consortium of law enforcement authorities has grown to seven member countries with collaboration from Interpol since its inception. The taskforce recently oversaw the arrest of five from Ukraine and 230 child exploitation website takedowns as part of a single sting operation.
The taskforce’s founding definition of the internet as a public, neutral space became the basis for some of its first operations, including a dummy child pornography repository which, though publicly announced, was never actually launched.
The definition comes in stark contrast to the mentality taken by some corporations, such as the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which has continued its legal battle against service provider iiNet over the alleged downloading of copyright material on the latter company’s network.
However, Gamble said the prescribed mentality needed education alongside to achieve success.
“The best way to protect children is to empower them themselves; they occupy these spaces,” he said.
“Impart and protect our young people with contemporary and relevant messages. They want short, sharp messages with a real medium.”
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, agreed with the need for education, stressing the importance of engagement between parents and children for greater transparency.
“For our children sharing personal details, chatting by mobile, updating their status on Facebook is part of everyday life,” he said. “So our challenge isn’t to stop them doing this, but rather we must teach children about the dangers they might face in the virtual world and help them negotiate the cyber environment safely.”
Successful education methods, according to Gamble, included the ThinkUKnow program run in schools in the UK and more recently Australia, as well as a web-based cybersafety panic button. The button was also set for replication locally, but did not eventuate despite the department responsible mounting $136,000 in costs.
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