Child abuse hotlines are reporting cartoon artists to police
Rights groups urge them to focus on real child abuse images
San Francisco — January 20, 2020 — Three free expression groups and a child protection group today issued a call to the international association of child abuse reporting hotlines, INHOPE, asking its members to stop accepting reports of cartoons and sharing them with police.
Jeremy Malcolm, Executive Director of child protection group Prostasia Foundation, said, "Child abuse reporting hotlines have a very narrowly defined function, which is to help prevent the sexual abuse of real children by those who create and share images of that abuse."
Today's joint letter, also signed by the National Coalition Against Censorship, Article 19, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, refers to cases in which cartoon images posted to social media have been used to arrest of members of marginalized communities, including a trangender Russian woman who was sentenced to imprisonment in a male prison in November 2019.
In another such case, a 17 year old girl was arrested in May 2019 for posting cartoon images to her blog, in response to a report from Canadian authorities. INHOPE member the Canadian Center for Child Protection declined to confirm responsibility for the report that led to the girl's arrest, but did say, "We forward any potential concerns to the appropriate law enforcement agency and/or child welfare. These authorities determine whether to proceed with an investigation."
Malcolm said, "There is no legal mandate for INHOPE members even to be collecting and sharing reports about cartoons with foreign police forces in the first place. This massively oversteps the purpose for which these hotlines were set up, and it is being used as a tool to oppress marginalized groups."
The joint letter suggests that other steps can be taken to limit the dissemination of offensive artwork, besides the use of the international law enforcement network that was established to eradicate child abuse images. The letter suggests, "images that infringe an Internet platform's terms of service can be removed, and platforms should support the tagging of explicit content to allow it to be hidden from children and from others who do not wish to view it."
"Every minute that an analyst or law enforcement officer spends chasing people over cartoons is a minute taken away from the fight to eliminate the sexual abuse of real children," said Malcolm. "There is no justification for it and INHOPE needs to take responsibility for its members and end this practice."
For further information:
Joint letter to INHOPE from Prostasia Foundation, NCAC, Article 19, and CBLDF
Jeremy Malcolm (Executive Director)
+1 415 650 2557 – [email protected]
Prostasia's website: https://prostasia.org