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31 May 2013

Increased law enforcement cooperation key to fighting online child abuse

LYON, France - The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), an international group of law enforcement agencies dedicated to fighting online child sexual abuse, released an assessment report which identifies the methods used by offenders to solicit their victims and avoid detection when sharing abuse material online, as well as challenges faced by law enforcement in combating these crimes.

The VGT Environmental Scan combines cutting-edge scientific research with the operational experiences of specialist law enforcement officers to examine the methods used by online child abusers to victimize children and young people, and the ways in which young people may be unwittingly making themselves more vulnerable to online abuse.

The report finds that offenders’ compulsive Internet usage and online networks of abusers may fuel hands-on offending against children and young people. These same networks also use increasingly secure methods to distribute child abusive material, including previously unseen indecent images and videos of children. New material potentially means new abuse. Identifying and locating victims of ongoing abuse is the top priority of specialist officers in VGT agencies.

Also highlighted is an increase in the distribution of sexually explicit images and videos by young people themselves – sometimes known as ‘sexting’ – and the need to make young people aware of how this material may be circulated without their consent, and even used as a tool to blackmail them into sexual activity with an adult. 

The VGT Environmental Scan was produced by the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, with the assistance of INTERPOL, other VGT police agencies and specialist law enforcement officers.

“As Internet technology further develops and previously under-connected parts of the world come online, we can expect to see new offenders, new victims, and new means of committing crimes against children,” said Troels Oerting, Head of EC3.

“As long as criminals continue to use the Internet to victimize and abuse children, we in law enforcement must pool our resources and knowledge to uncover their strategies and methods, in order to prevent future abuse before it starts,” said Michael Moran, Head of INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children unit.

“The VGT Environmental Scan is a landmark assessment for a landmark group of agencies,” said VGT Chair Ian Quinn, head of the Cyber Crimes Center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “It enables law enforcement agencies, both inside and outside of VGT, not only to target offenders more effectively, but to deliver crime prevention measures that keep pace with the ways children and young people use technology in their daily lives.”

The VGT aims to make the Internet a safer place, identify, locate and help children at risk and hold perpetrators appropriately to account.

For more information on the VGT and to read the VGT Environmental Scan, visit