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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Bringing attention to child pornography with National Cyber Security Awareness Month

If one pays close attention to the radio ads this month, many are directed towards cyber crime awareness, as October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

The virtual world is full of perpetrators waiting to exploit the vulnerable. Although any kind of crime is worth abhor, it is especially despicable when the innocent are the target. Child pornography is one of such acts, in which the evidence is illegally posted online; however, the same platform this crime circulates on can be the same that it is eradicated on.

Many times, those who offer, possess, transmit or store these illegal photos and videos could face long term prison and a lifetime on sex offender registries. Aside from the threat of incarceration, one needs to also spare a thought for the children depicted in these images and videos, since the images continue to be proliferated and transmitted for long after they go viral on the Internet.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month is a great time to bring attention to the progression of combating child pornography and aiding in the retrieval of missing children.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan established The National Center for Missing & Exploited children, a non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of missing kids. In 2009,Microsoft developed a technology with Dartmouth College called PhotoDNA.

From there, the popularity and effectiveness of this program spread, gaining companies like Facebook and Google. The program reviews images and videos of sexually exploited children reported by law enforcement, backdated since 2002 — which is 65 million as of date.

Bill Harmon, associate general counsel in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, said the technology finds a digital fingerprint — a unique identifier for digital images. PhotoDNA cannot identify individuals in photos, but by creating that unique mathematical representation of a photo itself, it helps law enforcement then match one photo to another, which helps investigators determine if a specific photo is new or an older shot that’s being recirculated.

The tool also helps law enforcement detect images that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. In the blog post, the associate general counsel said their goal is to help expedite investigations, limit officer exposure to the corrosive effects of viewing child rape images and strengthen law enforcement’s ability to quickly identify and rescue victims and get child abusers off the street.

The need of the hour is not just these stringent measures to combat and even eradicate as we progress ahead, but also better levels of awareness towards these crimes, which when nipped early will contribute to the collective good. One of the ways is to educate and sensitize people about what the punishment for the various cyber crimes are and the liabilities they fall under so people are aware of them.

One could also proactively contribute to this cause by reporting on the abuse or crime they’ve seen or heard of. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children announced the Cyber Tipline, and according to their webpage, they receive leads and tips regarding suspected crimes of sexual exploitation committed against children.

More than 2.5 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation have been made to the CyberTipline between 1998 and June 2014. There are also organizations that are dedicated to the cause, few of which are advertised on the radio, like and receives financial support from Facebook and is also on its Safety Advisory Board.

It’s better to be equipped with knowledge and tools and it can start with educating people young.

Education is supposed to engage individuals to harness growth and let the growth be sustainable for a better future. Therefore, it becomes the collective responsibility of all citizens to contribute to causes like this.

Opinion columnist Valli Challa is a law graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].


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