Task force hopes to curb misuse of digital tools to exploit children

1 Child Abuse
A 13-year-old girl picked up on the streets in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Nov. 1, 2013, sits in a shelter for girls who have faced sexual violence or commercial exploitation. Reuters

CISAC affiliate John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at UCLA and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, presented a report by the Digital Economy Task Force at an event hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

The Task Force was convened in June 2013 by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and the international news agency Thomson Reuters in an effort to combat the use of digital technologies in ways that exploit children.

"As we state in the report, in terms of the methods used, technology-facilitated commercial sexual exploitation of children has some commonalities with other criminal uses of the digital economy, including money laundering and terrorism financing,” said Villasenor, vice chair of the task force. “As a result, some aspects of the problem can and should be addressed in a broader context."

Villasenor, whose research considers the broader impact of key technology trends, presented some key recommendations from the report on March 5, which include:

  • Define the issue so that resources can be directed toward reducing the victimization of children;
  • Develop enhanced law enforcement investigation protocols;
  • Promote and facilitate international law enforcement coordination;
  • Educate policymakers on rules and regulations applicable to digital economy money services;
  • Develop reasonable regulatory definitions and limits to ensure that Internet anonymity does not became a safe harbor for criminal activity;
  • Encourage law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, Secret Service and other government agencies and human rights organizations with international reach to expand analysis and information gathering on the digital economy;
  • Continue to for working groups among private stakeholders and academics to help inform, collaborate and brainstorm with government and law enforcement officials.

The office of Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, issued this statement and Villasenor wrote this blog post for Brookings.