'These are real children': Charity wants policy change for removing child sex abuse images from internet

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Online companies can post a wide range of harmful and abusive images involving children, says a new report by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

In a report released Wednesday, the agency proposed a new framework for dealing with the removal of child sex abuse material after claiming online companies aren’t doing enough to stop it.

“The top 10 per cent take it down within 24 hours, the bottom 10 per cent  take two weeks plus and might not even respond to the notices,” said Signy Arnason, the associate executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

THE PROBLEM

Over the last three years, Project Arachnid – the agency’s online detection system – has detected over 13 million suspect images, around 10,000 a day.

After finding photos that are deemed abusive, a notice is sent to the hosting provider requesting its removal. Most online companies comply, but some argue the notice on technicalities, remove the image but leave other related images online, or ignore the notice altogether.

Headlining the new report, is a quote from an anonymous survivor of child sexual abuse: “We want to remind industry that these are real children in these photos that they receive notices for. We want people to stop thinking of this as a victimless crime and separate child abuse imagery from pornography.”

THE SOLUTION

The report lays out a “framework for action,” which gives a number of recommendations to combat child exploitation.

The first recommendation is to change the current policies for the removal of child sexual abuse images, which  focus on removing material deemed illegal under criminal law instead of grounded in the best interests of the child.

“We need to go further we need to get out of the confines of criminal law and talk about removing this material that is harmful and abusive towards children,” said Arnason.

The framework for action stresses how industry must act on removal notices without subjectivity and how internet providers should deny services to those negligent or complicit in the online availability of child sexual abuse images.

Another recommendation is for government to take leadership and provide laws that put the interest of children at the centre of this discussion.

The last recommendation is for society to demand change.

With the new framework for action, Arnason is hopeful “with cooperation we could clean up the internet.”

A full copy of the report and framework for action can be found online

-With files from CTV's Maralee Caruso