US Hotline reports vast improvements in removal of child abuse websites

By EDRi · August 24, 2011

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Deutsch: [US-Hotline verzeichnet große Erfolge bei der Löschung von Missbrauchsdarstellungen |ße_Erfolge_bei_der_Loeschung_von_Missbrauchsdarstellungen?pk_campaign=edri&pk_kwd=20110901]

In the course of the past year the US National Centre for Missing and
Exploited Children (NCMEC) made huge improvements in its handling of both
domestic and international reports of web-based child abuse material. These
sudden and huge improvements come at a time when both the European
Commission and individual member states, Germany in particular, have
increased their international efforts to address child abuse crimes at
source, rather than relying on addressing the symptoms through measures such
as web blocking. These efforts are, in large part, the result of
anti-blocking campaigns on national and EU level.

Although still far from perfect (with regard to due press of law and
anonymous reporting, in particular), the US has moved from being widely
considered to being a “safe haven” for such material to introducing diligent
procedures that are significantly better than those in the EU on a number of
fronts. The raw data are impressive. In May 2010, it was taking an average
of 6.85 days to process complaints (94% of reports concerned legal material)
while in May 2011, this delay had been reduced to 0.91 days. The amount of
time to have the websites disabled was also impressively reduced, from 5.09
days to 1.99 days over the same period.

Both the EU and US systems suffer from the serious problem that sites are
removed without judicial order, thereby circumventing both due process of
law and also the automatic involvement of law enforcement authorities,
despite the seriousness of the crimes depicted on the websites. It is
inexplicable and sad that child abuse appears to be the only crime in
society where it is normal and accepted that evidence can be posted on the
Internet and not investigated and where due process of law is not an
automatic reaction to compelling evidence of the crime being found.

Ironically, the quicker the “takedown” happens, the greater the risk that
law enforcement authorities will feel able to devote their resources to
other priorities, leaving the criminals with an effective licence to commit
their crimes again. However, the US system “freezes” the site, storing all
of the data that could be used by law enforcement authorities whereas the
European approach is to simply delete the sites. The European approach
therefore often works on the assumption that there will not be an
investigation, that there will not be an effort to identify the victims, the
owner of the site and the users of the site and, crucially, removes any
pressure on law enforcement authorities to take action.

It is to be hoped that the US approach will lead to statistics being
produced to show how many times the disabling of the websites is not
followed up by law enforcement authorities – such statistics should help
focus politicians’ minds on the crimes going uninvestigated and unpunished.

In the EU, European hotlines are contractually obliged by the European
Commission to produce statistics and, since last year, required to publish
public statistics. Despite this, there is very little information available
apart from the limited data provided by the Irish Internet Hotline and the
Internet Watch Foundation (UK) and the thorough and impressive data produced
by the ISPA Stopline in Austria. In the absence of such information,
policy-makers, as shown all too clearly in the blocking debate, are forced
to make policy without the data needed to make informed decisions.

NCMEC: URL reports to the CyberTipline and average # of days for staff to

NCMEC Notice Tracking System

NCMEC Notice Tracking Statistics

Irish Internet Hotline

Internet Watch Foundation

ISPA Austria Stopline

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)