Childwebalert hotline conference with social workers and police

  • Hotlines
  • 24/12/2018
  • Maltese Safer Internet Centre

The Childwebalert hotline within Agenzija Appogg organised, in collaboration with the BeSmartOnline! Project, a two-day seminar on 28 and 29 May 2018. The aim of this seminar was to give social workers, members of the Malta Police Force and members of the Psychosocial Team within the National School Support Services, an outline of the Childwebalert service. 

Childwebalert provides an online reporting system through which the general public can report, in a confidential and secure manner, websites which host child sexual abuse material (CSAM). CSAM refers to photographs or videos of children being sexually abused, uploaded online. Because of that, the abuse can be seen by many and the child is re-victimised each time this material is viewed online. Reporting this illegal content kicks off a process which culminates with the takedown of the content and, ultimately, if investigations are successful, the child being removed from the abusive situation. The hotline collaborates hand in hand with the Cybercrime Unit within the Malta Police Force – a relationship that has been formalised through a long-standing Memorandum of Understanding between Agenzija Appogg and the Police. As the national hotline, Childwebalert is a contributing member of INHOPE, the international network of hotlines established in 40 countries worldwide.

Michael Sheath, from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, hosted this seminar. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is a UK-wide charity dedicated solely to tackling child sexual abuse. For the past 19 years, Michael Sheath has worked in family courts, where he has conducted assessments of both convicted and alleged sexual offenders and their partners in family proceedings. He has been working with men who use the internet to acquire child abuse imagery since 1995. He has also published research on online groomers, and obtained a professional certificate in counselling relating to sex addiction. Whilst referring to the many convicted men he has worked with, Michael Sheath explained that many of them claim that initially they stumbled across such content by coincidence but then they persisted in watching this content.  Furthermore, Michael Sheath said that the majority of them did not have a history of committing sexual offences and lead normal and ordinary lives with their families. Hence, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation provides the "Stop it Now" helpline which offers support to individuals who have sexual thoughts related to children or who are viewing CSAM. Such support is also extended to families and partners of convicted CSAM viewers.

On her closing address, Ruth Sciberras, Operations Director within Agenzija Appogg claimed that "admittedly the challenge the hotline set out to achieve is very difficult. Eliminating child sexual abuse online is a daily struggle our team does with enormous passion and admirable dedication and despite the emotional strain, nothing deters them from their goal." Ruth Sciberras called upon everyone who comes across such content to do the right thing and report it, reminding everyone that a child can be rescued and an offender can be prosecuted.

The Childwebalert hotline is part of the BeSmartOnline! project  which is implemented through a consortium coordinated by the Malta Communication Authority (MCA) and brings together Agenzija Appogg, the Directorate for Learning and Assessment Programmes and  the Office of the Commissioner for Children.

Find out more information about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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