Roundtable “Combating online sexual abuse and exploitation – collaboration with hosting companies and ICT industry”

How can we have a service for reporting child sexual abuse material (CSAM) launched and functional as soon as possible? This is one of the strategic directions of activity that La Strada has established for the nearest time. In this regard, over the past years, La Strada organized and mediated several communication and collaboration initiatives between state authorities, specialized law enforcement bodies, international organizations and local NGOs, in order to propel the state’s efforts to create an accessible tool for reporting CSAM, according to the commitments it made back in 2011, when Moldova became a member of WeProtect Global Alliance.

The round table that took place today fits into the series of these advocacy initiatives.

In her welcoming speech, Elena BOTEZATU, Executive Director of La Strada, reminded that “a CSAM reporting service will help us, as a society, to report every photo or video that indicates child abuse. La Strada resumed communication with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the authority responsible for creating the Hotline service to relaunch the process of conceptualization and implementation of the CSAM reporting service. For about a year, including through collaboration with the Cybercrime Investigation Directorate, we have come to have a clear vision and a model that we want to discuss with hosting companies and the ICT industry in Moldova, in order to be able to report and remove such materials.”

In his turn, Iurie ROȘCA, Head of the Cybercrime Investigation Directorate of the National Investigations Inspectorate under the General Police Inspectorate confirms: “Combating sexual exploitation of children is one of the priority areas of activity of the Directorate, which is a specialized subdivision investigating these criminal cases. One of the challenges identified by us in investigation is that the number of cases recorded and investigated, in fact, is much lower than the actual cases that are known to the police. Even so, in 2021 alone, the Directorate that I lead recorded more than 30 criminal cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Together with La Strada, we identified new solutions and ways to streamline police work by creating the possibility to report child sexual abuse materials. The creation of such a service is a priority for the institution I represent, which will streamline our work and will contribute to expanding the capacities of proactive and complex investigation, giving us the opportunity to focus on identifying the perpetrator in combating this scourge.”

Samantha Wolfe, INHOPE’s Head of Global Partnerships and Network Expansion, described for the round table participants how Hotline services work, what their mission is in the countries where they operate, how INHOPE usually collaborates with law enforcement and with ICT partners. She also mentioned the benefits of developing a national Hotline service for Moldova as part of the INHOPE network:

“We have been working together with La Strada for two years and have had conversations with different sectors in Moldova, both state and private institutions. The private sector, namely hosting and ICT companies, play an important role in eliminating CSAM. Hosting and ICT companies are key elements in the creation and operation of a reporting service. Without their involvement it would not be possible to remove child sexual abuse material and support police efforts to create a ‘cleaner’ internet.”

Anatolie POPA, representative of the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau: “The goals we have in partnership with the International Center La Strada are concrete. We are aware that any outcome in creating this service depends on all the stakeholders involved and we hope to get the necessary support from hosting companies and the ICT industry. We are at an important stage in the creation of this service.”

At the end of February, La Strada organized a first communication platform between central authorities and public institutions in the field of information security and cyber security, in order to identify the possibilities of launching the first online CSAM reporting service in Moldova. Today, the partner community has taken another step towards achieving this goal. The representatives of the ICT community in Moldova, guided by international experts, outlined possible procedures for reporting and removing CSAM, valid for the legal framework and local practice of hosting companies in our country. The round table ended with the presentation and validation of the roadmap for the next actions within this project.

Both events took place under the aegis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau, in partnership with INHOPE – the global network to combat CSAM.

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