A GUEST POST BY JOHN CARR When approached by the Commonwealth Technology Organization and asked to present about online child safety at a meeting they were arranging in London I accepted immediately. However, when I started researching what was currently happening in Commonwealth countries I began, as I always do, by checking out the position in relation to child pornography or child abuse images as they are now more commonly called.
The US-based International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) periodically produces global reports on this issue. Several years ago they established a five-point matrix to determine whether or not a given country had the necessary laws in place to fight this very modern curse. The question of how well countries implement their laws is another and equally important question, but without the laws you are usually not even at first base. Meeting four out of the five criteria was considered the threshold.
In the latest ICMEC survey, from August 2010, of 53 Commonwealth Member States only 11 met four or more criteria. A few more were close but 33 countries met none of the five. A plan quickly evolved. Instead of talking about online safety in general I joined with ICMEC and presented a toolkit focussing specifically on tackling child abuse images.
Trying to develop policies about tackling wider online child safety without first developing a framework for child abuse images is a bit like entering the Monte Carlo Grand Prix before passing your driving test. On the other hand developing a policy around child abuse images opens up almost all of the issues that any subsequent or wider policy must also address but it does so in a context that everyone gets immediately. To that extent focusing first on child abuse images is a very pragmatic way of getting the whole debate going.
John Carr is an adviser to the United Nations (ITU) on online child safety and is a member of the Executive Board of the British Government’s Council for Child Internet Safety.