INHOPE@20 - Celebrating INHOPE at the Safer Internet Forum 2019

On Thursday, 21 November 2019, the Safer Internet Forum (SIF) took place in Brussels, Belgium. With a theme of "From online violence to digital respect", it also celebrated 20 years of safer/better internet funding by the European Commission. Below, read the summary of the INHOPE@20 deep dive session on the impact of a global network in combatting online child sexual abuse material (CSAM), led by Denton Howard, Executive Director of INHOPE and Fred Langford, President of INHOPE.

INHOPE and its extensive network of member hotlines work to eliminate online child sexual abuse material (CSAM). It is critical to the work of the hotlines that members of the public who stumble upon illegal content report it and not ignore it. The consequence of not reporting illegal content are numerous and impact victims: CSAM remains on the internet and is not taken down. This means that every time that this material is viewed by anyone anywhere in the world, the victim depicted is re-victimised. Indeed survivors of recorded child sexual abuse say that knowing it is online for anyone to see continues to impact their lives for many years after the abuse has stopped. The significance of reporting illegal content is vital in helping survivors of child sexual abuse reducing the repeated trauma they could suffer, as well as keeping the internet safe for all legitimate users. INHOPE marked 20 years as the leading global organisation that fights child sexual abuse material (CSAM) this year with a special deep dive session, INHOPE@20, at the Safer Internet Forum.

INHOPE@20 was an opportunity for current member hotlines, founding member hotline colleagues, policy makers, law enforcement and child safety advocates to come together to talk about where we have come from, where we are today and where the network is going. With 45 member hotlines in 40 countries working together to eliminate online CSAM, victims know that there are people and organisations fighting for them to no longer live in fear of images of their abuse being found and viewed.

INHOPE rebranded

Image of INHOPE's new visual identity

INHOPE@20 provided an opportunity for INHOPE to share its rebranded website and communications, which represent the INHOPE network of hotlines standing for one vision and being stronger together.

DG CONNECT keynote speech

June Lowery, Head of Unit Accessibility, Multilingualism and Safer Internet at DG CONNECT, gave the keynote speech, highlighting the following:

  • 800 million children use social media and are the fastest growing demographic. By 2022 there will be another 1.2 billion new social media users.
  • NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) received 18 million reports last year and 800,000 of these reports concerned materials hosted in the EU, so there is still a lot of work to do.
  • There still isn't a common definition in European law of what child sexual abuse material is, which makes the jobs of analysts and law enforcement much harder.
  • End-to-end encryption is proving a huge challenge as it helps offenders hide their identity and location.
  • Artificial intelligence has the potential to help us better combat CSAM significantly by lessening the burdens on analysts and law enforcement.
  • There is increased political attention to the issue of CSAM at EU level as evidenced by the reaffirming of EU and Member States' commitment to fighting sexual abuse of children with a three-pronged approach, being legislation, cooperation and funding. Find out more information on this commitment.

Panel 1 – INHOPE yesterday, today and tomorrow: How did we get here? A contribution from our founding and long-standing members

John Carr (Senior Technical Adviser, ECPAT International, Thailand) was the discussion chair, with panellists Jean-Christophe le Toquin (President, Point de Contact, France), Barbara Schlossbauer (Hotline Manager, Stopline, Austria) and Fred Langford (Deputy CEO, Internet Watch Foundation, UK and President, INHOPE).

John Carr opened this panel by discussing recent New York Times articles highlighting the lack of action from technology companies in fighting CSAM online. The panellists then shared their thoughts, with the discussion highlighting the following points:

  • Technology can and should play a huge role in the fight against CSAM in the future, notwithstanding that we will always need humans to do part of the work, including the work of the hotline analysts.
  • Companies should consider scanning on upload and take on that responsibility.
  • The New Digital Services Act will see a revision of the e-commerce community divisions and seek ways to take all legal and proportionate steps to mitigate risk concerning CSAM on IT systems.
  • European Internet Services Providers (ISPs) have no real reason to act (meaning that now is the time for regulation), while the US tech giants are doing more than Europe and the rest of the world today.
  • There is a need for common legislation across Europe (at least).
  • All citizens in all countries should have a place where they can report illegal material found online, either to a hotline or, in countries where hosting is minimal, possibly simply through a reporting mechanism that requires minimal resources such as an online reporting portal.
  • The content analysts are INHOPE's heroes, but their work is not recognised or respected as much as it should be.
  • In a post-encryption age, new technology and techniques must be sought. Indeed, as companies employ strong encryption in environments which are used to store, post or otherwise exchange messages and files, they are making CSAM invisible (by making it undetectable).
  • INHOPE was needed 20 years ago at the dawn of the internet, and while it has come a long way and has been the glue that has held the network together as the leading global authority tackling CSAM, the work is in many ways just beginning.

Panel 2 – What the INHOPE network of hotlines has achieved and why we support them: A contribution from some of our stakeholders

The panel chair was Fred Langford (President, INHOPE) and the panellists were Michael Busch (European Commission, DG CONNECT, Unit G3, Senior Policy Officer), Antonio Labrador Jimenez (European Commission, DG Home, Unit D4 Cybercrime, Team Leader, Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse) and Jean-Charles Schweitzer (Criminal Intelligence Officer, Europol).

Michael Busch reflected on INHOPE@20 and highlighted that the first decade was a time when the foundation of the network was being built. The second decade looked to, firstly establish an unprecedented and unique cooperation and trust between INHOPE members, civil society, and police, and secondly the concretisation of the INHOPE network to cover all of the member states. The European Commission is proud to have funded the fight against CSAM through funding INHOPE's work today, and from the very beginning.

Jean-Charles Schweitzer talked about the relationship between INHOPE and Europol, discussing how the two organisations work together on capacity building, training, awareness, exchange of expertise and knowledge. This collaboration aims to further and always advance the fight against CSAM through better detection and investigation. Jean-Charles Schweitzer also talked about how INHOPE can improve its systems to help provide the police with actionable intelligence.

Antonio Labrador Jimenez, Team Leader Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse in Unit D4 Cybercrime at DG HOME, talked about the key role of hotlines in the Directive on combating sexual abuse of children, and how it has changed the European landscape. An example was given that, the day prior to this meeting, President Emmanuel Macron had given a speech about measures to be taken in France concerning online child protection. This is a direct result of the EC's work and the infringement procedures the Directive sets out. In terms of impact, Antonio also touched upon the other ways in which the EU helps its 500 million citizens, who benefit from decisions made and implemented as Directives, driving forward democratic resolutions made and negotiated by elected officials. Indeed, there will also need to be a review of the e-Commerce Directive under the new European Commission, which took office on Sunday, 1 December 2019.

For more information about the Safer Internet Forum 2019 "From online violence to digital respect", you can read the full report on betterinternetforkids.eu and visit betterinternetforkids.eu/sif2019.


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