Home Affairs fighting child porn

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The Department of Home Affairs is to spend R15 million through its Film and Publications Board (FPB) to fund educational advertisements and activities to fight the depiction of child abuse, commonly called child pornography.

Deputy home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba adds h and the FPB will this year intensify the fight against child porn and protect children in general from porn in the mass media.

According to FPB CE Yoliswa Makhasi the funds will be used for the implementation of an anti-child pornography campaign and to support a project office tasked with the coordination and management of the campaign.

Makhasi told ITWeb the Internet may be responsible for opening up the world and making access to information easy, but it is a double-edged sword. Along with the freedom of information, a darker side exists, bringing with it crimes such as child pornography. “The strategy and operational plan in place will see the roll-out of a public media campaign focused on educating children and parents on the dangers and risks associated with child pornography and the exposure of children to pornography in general,” she adds.

She says it’s vital for SA to have such programmes given the World Cup, and the inherent risks to children associated with the event, given the influx of foreign visitors. “It should however be noted that the campaign forms part of FPB’s 2010/11 outreach and awareness work, so the R15 million is not only targeted at the World Cup period, but is much broader than that,” Makhasi explains.

The FPB has created a website affiliated to the International Association of Internet Hotlines (Inhope). Its purpose is to educate the public about child pornography and to create a public reporting mechanism to report images of child abuse discovered accidentally on the Internet. According to Makhasi, since gaining Inhope membership in May 2009, 45 cases have been reported to the FPB site, and 33% of these were confirmed as child pornography, according to the Films and Publications Act. All these cases were reported to Inhope, as they were hosted outside SA.

The FPB says this is the first time it is dedicating such a significant budget to a campaign forming part of its child protection mandate. While the organisation has previously allocated resources to the creation of awareness on child pornography and outreach programmes in communities, it says these have been on a less public scale than the campaign planned and budgeted for 2010. The board says the funding is a reflection of the seriousness with which government views the protection of children, and the need to empower South Africans with information on the risk and dangers of child pornography.

According to the FPB, child pornography dissemination largely occurs through downloading via the Internet. It is also prevalent on social networking sites and chat rooms,ITWeb reports. By its nature, the Internet is borderless and it’s therefore difficult to nationalise child pornography, says the organisation. However, in a 2008 FPB study on the ‘incidence and impact of sexual abuse of children through ICT’, it was found 22% of the respondents had seen something on the Internet that had upset them or made them feel uncomfortable.

The board says upsetting content mostly involved sexual content and nudity, and 14% of chat room users had been exposed to upsetting content in a chat room. “This was mostly girls who were participating in chat room discussions during which unwanted approaches of a sexual nature were made.”

It adds that 12% of respondents had seen distressing content on a cellphone, which was mainly of a sexual nature, and 7% viewed upsetting content in an e-mail – mostly violent and sexual. “In addition, young people are taking sexually-suggestive, semi-nude or nude pictures of themselves and sending them via cellphones to friends, which amounts to the creation, possession, and distribution of child pornography.”

According to Makhasi, section 24 of the Films and Publications Act holds the owners and operators of all telecommunication channels targeted at and used by children responsible for the content created and distributed within those mediums. It also requires owners and operators to take the necessary steps in ensuring their services are not used by any persons for committing offences on children. This is because evidence and real-life experiences point to the fact that some of these mediums are used as platforms for sexual abuse, exploitation and grooming of children, she says.
“It should be noted that child pornography is a global phenomenon and therefore the rise in the use of the Internet has provided an opportunity for child molesters and paedophiles to create, distribute, and possess child pornography,” says the FPB. In global efforts, Microsoft and Interpol have partnered in a programme to train law enforcement officers around the world to use technology to catch child pornographers. About 300 police officers from 90 countries went to Costa Rica, Brazil, and other countries for training in the Global Campaign Against Child Pornography, sponsored by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

ITWeb in February reported the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) is helping the South African Police Service to clamp down on Internet crime. The industry body has started IT training sessions with a KwaZulu-Natal-based multidisciplinary police taskforce responsible for the prevention of child pornography, prostitution and human trafficking. The sessions are aimed at helping members of the taskforce understand the technical workings of the Internet and mobile devices, as well as how the police can use online resources to aid them in their work.

Mike Silber, ISPA regulatory advisor, says that, if the initiative proves successful in KwaZulu-Natal, it hopes to roll it out to other provinces with the permission of the National Prosecuting Authority. “SA’s ISPs are all committed to helping the authorities fight crime in any way that they can. We are especially determined to help the authorities stamp out child pornography that is distributed across the Internet. ISPA is more than willing to share its technical and legal expertise with the police since we all have vested interests in the fight against crime.”

Silber says ISPA is also assisting the police on a voluntary basis by providing technical assistance. “We’re giving them a deeper understanding of how the Internet works and the implications of crimes such as child pornography, hacking, fraud, DSL theft and phishing. Real child pornography cannot be found through a simple Google search and a technical forensic expert would be needed for the investigation. But forensic experts are stretched thin at the moment, so we are collaborating and informing the police officers on the ground what they can do in the investigation.”



Silber says ISPA aims to equip the police with knowledge about the records ISPs are obliged to store, as well as the conditions under which they are willing and able to give authorities access to this information.