ABU DHABI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 5 November 2020: The International Security Alliance (ISA), a collaborative transnational network, recently announced the outcomes of the first joint operation for combating online sexual exploitation of children.
COVID-19 unleashed a torrent of health, economic and security challenges upon the world, not least upon children. The ISA recognized that online sexual exploitation has drastically increased during the pandemic; communities are in danger, since many children across the world are at risk of online sexual exploitation from criminal predators that have adapted to the crisis and exploited the vulnerability of young people. To combat this, countries had to increase and maintain their levels of cooperation and information sharing. Law enforcement agencies also cooperated with private companies to acquire and share data on sexual offenders.
The member states of the International Security Alliance who are utilising experts from their Interior Ministries are: France, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Bahrain and Senega. We are also privileged to have involvement from the UK and Australia for this joint operation.
During the operation, working groups from each ministry focused on three main objectives:
‚óè Arresting the largest possible number of perpetrators of crimes involving sexual exploitation and referring them to the judicial authorities.
‚óè Identifying child sexual abuse victims and saving them from harm and exploitation.
‚óè Blocking the largest possible number of sites and applications used to promote and exchange Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).
The operation includes information and reports received from the initial period of 1st January 2020 until 30th May 2020, the period during which the procedures for lockdowns and restrictions were at the highest level in dealing with the spread of the COVID-19. The operation was then extended to cover the period from the 1st June to the end of September.
Finally, after receiving the relevant information, the International Security Alliance participants agreed to release the final results of the joint operation after studying and analysing the data of all countries. The following was revealed:
771: The total number of arrests of perpetrators of crimes related to sexual exploitation
549: The total number of child sexual abuse victims identified and rescued from harm and exploitation
580: The total number of blocked websites and applications used to promote and share Child Sexual Abuse Material
A representative from the Italian Interior Ministry (Ministero dell'Interno) said of the initiative, “The joint operation that has just ended represented an opportunity to investigate, once again and from a wider point of view, the repercussions that COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown have had on the criminal activities in question. A significant increase in the number of offenses committed via the Net has been detected, especially relating to minors, with a subsequent surge in police operational activities throughout the Italian territory. The possibility for the national security system to share views, at such a delicate moment, with countries with which cooperation in the field of child pornography, has not yet reached the desired levels of collaboration and mutual growth, has certainly made it possible to lay the foundations of renewed international collaboration and increase, also at a technical and operational level, the possibility of reaching environments that have not been fully explored yet.”
Jane Dickinson, representative from the Australian Federal Police commented “The child exploitation online COVID-19 operation is another great law enforcement initiative being led by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Interior (MOI). The Australian Federal Police welcomes the collaboration and cooperation of the UAE MOI and acknowledges the UAE leadership in tackling the crime of child exploitation.”