We are committed to eliminating unlawful sexual images of minors, also known as child sexual abuse material (CSAM), child sexual exploitation material (CSEM), or child pornography. But unlike other groups, we don’t believe that this can be done through law enforcement or technology alone. As a human problem, we have to take account of the humanity of its perpetrators and to offer a nuanced solution that addresses them in their complexity.
Three key prevention interventions that Prostasia Foundation offers or supports to reduce usage of unlawful images are our research into CSAM prevention, providing support for mental wellness for those at risk of offending, and our “CP” deterrence campaign aimed at people actively searching for unlawful images.
“CP” is the Internet’s colloquialism for the unlawful depictions of children that the law prosecutes as child pornography. Most people know that looking at these images and videos is both wrong and illegal. But some will seek it out anyway. Reaching out to them before they do so could prevent a crime and could save a child from being revictimized.
Unlawful images can be found on mainstream Internet platforms, but they are usually discovered and reported quickly, and Internet companies are improving the speed and accuracy with which they do this all the time. That’s why a large proportion of trading of unlawful images is instead done over encrypted chat or file-sharing services, or over encrypted network connections, that cannot be so easily intercepted or taken down.
One of those encrypted networks is the Tor network, which is used around the world by those wishing to access the Internet with greater privacy, for a variety of mostly legitimate reasons… but is also used by a few to share “CP”.
Banning privacy-enabling encryption technologies such as Tor, with their many important legitimate uses, is not the answer. But what might be the answer is to reach out to those who are bound for the Tor network with child abuse primary prevention messages, especially if there is also any indication that they are seeking unlawful images.
So far, Prostasia has a set of Google search ads (some shown above), thanks to a generous in-kind donation from Google. We are also supporting the development of a popup for relevant searches on an anonymous file-sharing service. But our objective is to do more, to include advertisements on privacy-focused search engines (like DuckDuckGo), privacy and security related product websites and products, and on websites hosted on the Tor network itself.