Technology

New bid to save children from Internet predators

cyber (1)
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Summary

  • Paedophiles uploading or sharing child-related sexual content could soon be nabbed and sent to jail, thanks to a partnership between Kenya and UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
  • The IWF and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) partnership will see offensive content identified fast via anonymous calls or text messages with the offending link availed to facilitate tracking of devices used and culprits arrested.

Paedophiles uploading or sharing child-related sexual content could soon be nabbed and sent to jail, thanks to a partnership between Kenya and UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The IWF and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) partnership will see offensive content identified fast via anonymous calls or text messages with the offending link availed to facilitate tracking of devices used and culprits arrested.

During a virtual commissioning event, DCI and IWF launched Kenya’s first ever online portal enabling law enforcers to receive information on online child sexual exploitation and abuse immediately it is posted, allowing for quick action.

DCI Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit (AHTCPU) head, Mueni Mutisya said anyone who detects the offending content should report in person or make an anonymous call through a hotline enabling DCI to expedite the process of pulling down the unsuitable materials as investigations continue.

“Child online protection is a shared responsibility and once cases of online sexual abuse on children are reported and a link to any website authoring such content is shared, this portal will enable us to expedite the process of pulling down the unsuitable materials before they cause more damage to our children,” she said.

National Crime Agency’s international liaison officer for Kenya and Uganda, Waqar Qureshi welcomed the development saying he expects an increase in successful prosecutions of paedophiles.

“In 2019, our strong ties with AHTCPU led to the creation of the unit’s cyber wing, which conducts investigations into online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Launch of IWF portal will increase number of investigations of child sexual abuse and exploitation by AHTCPU,” he said.

Lady Justice Martha Koome said offensive content should be immediately pulled down, adding that there is a need for a review on how evidence and prosecuting of child-related cases is done.

"You do not require any court order to pull down any material that exposes a child to sexual exploitation and abuse, whether copyrighted or not. The judicial system prioritises what is done in the best interest of the child," she said.

Investigation bureau deputy director, Carey Nyawinda said the partnership will go a long way in making Kenyan children safe within physical and virtual environments.

The meeting attended by the United Nations Office on Drugs (UNODC), Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), Interpol and the Internet Service Providers heard that 132,700 webpages showing the sexual abuse of children globally were removed by IWF analysts in 2019.

Last year, Internet giant, Google unveiled new tools and resources aimed at enhancing safeguards for stay-at-home children and adult people.

“We have intensified efforts to raise awareness about Internet insecurities and empower audiences with tools and resources to help them stay safe online — particularly kids because they are the most vulnerable,” Google said.

Speaking in Nairobi where it launched a How to be Safe Online’ storybook last October, Google country director Agnes Gathaiya said the Covid-19 period generated the need for higher Internet controls aimed at helping children stay away from such dangers as cyberbullying, hacking, phishing, and exposure to inappropriate material for the younger users.

According to IWF, 46 percent of victims are aged 10 years or under, while 92 percent of images uploaded were girl-victims.

The UK-based international charity now working with partners in 44 countries finds and removes images and videos of child sexual abuse from the Internet.

Saying it will continue monitoring and where necessary automatically block security threats from reaching users, Google noted that users can reduce the security risk involved in using the same passwords across multiple accounts by applying unique and strong passwords.

“Phishing,a common technique where hackers trick people into granting access to their accounts or sensitive information, like passwords can be avoided by Google Chrome’s Password Alert extension at g.co/passwordalert that flags off and notifies users every time a Google password is used on a non-Google site,” said Google.

The IT giant added that regular users can enhance safety by enabling a two-step verification mode thereby blocking instances where users illegally access private email accounts while using a username and a password only.

Google said users should download mobile apps from trusted sources only, adding that Google Play Store Apps are periodically checked to affirm safety of users.

She reiterated the need to browse on secure networks and connections, noting that people need to be careful when using public or free Wi-Fi, even those requiring a password.