Child Focus signs Operational Protocol of Cooperation

  • Hotlines
  • 25/08/2017
  • Belgian Safer Internet Centre

Two and a half years after Child Focus started to lobby to gain full operational competence for the analysis of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) reports in Belgium, it passed the final legal hurdle. The Operational Protocol of Cooperation containing the procedure was signed on 6 July 2017. With the signing of this Protocol, Child Focus can now analyse the reports received, rather than simply alerting the authorities.

More specifically, it was decided that Child Focus would, from now on, label the reports made by the public in three categories:

  1. Illegal content hosted in Belgium
    This first category of reports is immediately transferred to the Child Abuse team of the Federal Police. This unit will then contact a magistrate to ask for a verbal approval to contact the hosting provider to temporarily make the content inaccessible. After this is done, the police will get the paperwork in order to make sure the content is made permanently inaccessible, with a written order of the magistrate. This means that, in Belgium, it is the Police who contacts the hosting providers, and it also means that the judiciary is involved in the Notice and Takedown procedure.
  2. Illegal content hosted abroad
    •  For illegal content hosted in an INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines) member country, four trained analysts from Child Focus will work with the  ICCAM system (INHOPE's technology platform for supporting hotlines in their reporting and referral roles, including categorisation and hashing of content). The hotline will ensure that the matter is investigated and, if found to be illegal, the information will be passed to the relevant Law Enforcement Agency (LEA).
    • For illegal content hosted in a country where there is no INHOPE member, the analysts will immediately transfer it to the Child Abuse team of the Federal Police, who will handle the report through international police networks.
  3. Legal content

The Protocol was signed by Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens, Attorney General Christian De Valkeneer, Commissioner General Catherine De Bolle, Director of the Federal Judicial Police Claude Fontaine, Chief of Staff Michael Govaerts on behalf of the local police and Managing Director of Child Focus Heidi De Pauw during a press conference held at the Child Focus office.

Minister Geens said ‘'The sexual abuse of children and the materials that show this cannot be tolerated in our society. I am counting on Child Focus to remain vigilant and to quickly report the reprehensible practices so that the Police and judiciary carry out their work and take these websites offline."

Heidi De Pauw stated "Taking these websites offline is especially important for victims who not only have to live with the aftermath of sexual abuse for the rest of their lives, but also know that the images of this terrible experience continue to circulate on the internet."

The press conference was followed by a tour of the renovated Child Focus offices, showcasing the Zen Room and the hotline office specifically designed to for the new tasks at hand. Child Focus will be piloting its own system and ICCAM in the weeks to come and expect to be fully operational before the summer ends.

Child Focus is the Belgian Safer Internet Centre. It strives to find missing children and combat child sexual abuse.

Find out more about the work of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.

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