Children rescued in international abuse probe
An abused child was removed from harm in this country, as were at least 11 others overseas, after the Department of Internal Affairs sparked a global operation into pictures of child sexual abuse.
The department said that in October 2010 its censorship compliance unit found significant amounts of child sexual abuse and exploitation pictures being exchanged via social network sites, including Facebook, Socialgo, and grou.ps.
It provided evidence of the illegal activities to 20 countries and worked with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations directorate, and Interpol.
Department regulatory compliance operations general manager Maarten Quivooy said law enforcement agencies in the countries involved had been able to take action against 55 people who were regarded as the top offenders.
“Our investigators and ICE identified a large number of groups on Facebook engaging in the display or distribution of objectionable child sexual material.”
Most of the 55 people detected were now in prison or facing prosecution.
None of those identified from the operation were from New Zealand, but five New Zealanders who played a lesser role in the closed groups were identified during the covert investigation which led to the operation. They were facing court action.
At least 12 abused children had been identified and removed from harm including one in New Zealand, the department said.
Facebook officials supported the investigation, and some of those targeted had already been referred to law enforcement agencies as part of Facebook’s efforts to ensure the platform was not used for the dissemination of child sexual abuse images.
The head of Interpol’s crimes against children unit, Mick Moran, said the operation, code-named laminar, demonstrated the need for international cooperation.
"There is no safe environment or anonymous area for individuals who think that they can trade and publish child abuse images online, as proved once again by this operation which should serve as a warning to others – you will be caught,” Mr Moran said.
“While disrupting these networks is a significant part of the investigation, what is more important is that innocent children and in some cases babies have been rescued from physical abuse.”
Mr Quivooy said images of children being sexually abused, when released onto the internet, lived on forever.
"They haunt the children depicted, who live daily with the knowledge that countless strangers use an image of their worst experiences for their own gratification."
The 20 countries with identified targets are Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, United States and Venezuela.
- © Fairfax NZ News