FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is INHOPE and its role in the fight against illegal content?

INHOPE is the International Association of Internet Hotlines founded in 1999. INHOPE coordinates a network of Internet Hotlines all over the world co-funded and supported by the European Commission Safer Internet Program. The main objective of INHOPE is to facilitate and promote the work of Internet Hotlines in responding to illegal use and content, especially Child Sexual Abuse Material on the Internet and:

  • To establish policies and best practice standards for Hotlines and encourage exchange of expertise among members through fostering good working relationships and trust.
  • To ensure rapid and effective response to illegal content reports around the world by developing consistent, effective and secure mechanisms for exchanging reports between Hotlines internationally and ensuring a coordinated approach is taken.
  • To expand the network of INHOPE Hotlines around the world by identifying and supporting new Hotlines to become members by providing consultation and training to meet best practice standards.
  • To promote a better understanding of the work of Hotlines to policymakers at an international level, including government, law enforcement and other related bodies, with the aim of achieving better co-operation internationally.
  • To raise awareness of INHOPE and member Hotlines with key stakeholders as well as the general public as a "one stop shop" for global reports of illegal content from around the world especially Child Sexual Abuse Materia
What are the INHOPE Internet Hotlines?

INHOPE member Hotlines provide a mechanism for the public to report content or use of the internet that they suspect to be illegal. The main objective is to fight illegal content – primarily Child Sexual Abuse Material - distributed on the internet and to have this removed as quickly as possible.

In most countries the Hotline will analyse the reported web sites (or other Internet service) to determine if the content is illegal, and if so, will trace where it appears to be located (source country) and then will pass the information to the relevant stakeholders in that country for further action.

The Hotlines act as a “fast lane” to support rapid ISP and law enforcement action in the source country. Through the agreed standards applied by INHOPE, Hotlines notify counterparts across international boundaries in the source country to initiate removal of the illegal content and investigation into the perpetrators as well as the other crimes related to the illegal content by law enforcement including the rescue of abused victims.

 

For fuller details and information please contact your National Hotline: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

How can I make a report about illegal content I see on the Internet?

The best way to make a report is through the online form on the national Hotline website.
You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

Illegal content or activities can also be reported to the national police.
In any acute emergency situation concerning direct threat to life or health of an individual, alleged terrorist threats especially involving weapons of mass destruction, or cases of massive and pervasive cyber-attacks you should always call the emergency number 112 in Europe and 911 outside Europe.
Harmful or inappropriate content or activities should be reported using the abuse e-mail of the provider or, in the case of social networks, using the abuse button/link provided.

Will I get feedback concerning the report to a Hotline?

If you wish to receive feedback, make sure you leave your contact details. Due to the volume of reports received by Hotlines it is not always possible to update individual reporters.

In addition, any reports that start a full police investigation will require confidentiality on behalf of the Hotline.

You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here:

http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

What type of content should I report - and where?

The definition of illegal content varies from country to country. A Hotline, where you can report illegal content, will work within the legislation of the country where they operate. All Hotlines take reports of sites containing Child Sexual Abuse Material, and according to national legislation for example hate speech websites and grooming. Some Hotlines also take reports about websites encouraging to self-harming behaviour related to for example eating disorders or suicidal ideation. Check with your national Hotline for a full description of the type of content you can report.

The Hotline will analyse the reports to determine if they are illegal under their national laws.  The origin of illegal content is traced and information is passed through the global network without delay to relevant stakeholders in the source country to initiate the removal of illegal sites and law enforcement activities.

You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

Illegal content or activities can also be reported to the national police.

Which types of online content are considered illegal?
Every country has its own laws on what can be considered illegal on the internet. In general however, all countries appear to have laws against Child Sexual Abuse Material and racism or xenophobia.

You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx
What should I do if I see suspicious links, descriptions or filenames in an email, forum, p2p search, newsgroup, etc. (but don’t see any images directly)?

If you have doubts about a certain type of content, you should report it, just in case. The appropriate INHOPE member Hotline will make the evaluation according to its country’s rule of law.

Warning: you should not try to deliberately find potentially illegal content or to try to verify if it is illegal yourself. That is the role of Hotlines or Police, there is no problem if the suspect content reported turns out not to be illegal. 

Can I report illegal content anonymously?

Most of the INHOPE Hotlines allow reporters the ability to report anonymously if required. Check with your local Hotline for their regulations around reporting.

You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

Where to report illegal content if there is no Hotline in my country?

If you have come across to an illegal website but do not have a Hotline in your country there are two options. You can report this to your national police force or any INHOPE member Hotline.

The Hotline will then evaluate whether the content is illegal and which is the hosting country and forward it to the national Hotline.

You will find an up to date list of the INHOPE member Hotlines and the contact information to the Hotline of your country here: http://www.inhope.org/gns/our-members.aspx

Why is content I reported still online?

If a reported item still appears online it may be that the reported item is not illegal in the source / hosted country or an international cooperation of the police is necessary, which might lead to delays in particular cases.

What happens when I report content to a Hotline?

Every report made to a Hotline is analysed by the Content Analyst within the Hotline to assess whether or not the website (or other service) contains material that is classed as illegal. If this is the case the source will then be traced. The website will then be reported to the law enforcement nationally, or if the site is hosted in another country, to the Hotline in that source country for further action to initiate the rapid removal of the content and law enforcement investigations. 

What is the role of the Internet and other online devices in child sexual abuse?

The Internet is abused by people who have a sexual interest in children, as the technology provides the means to access, store and exchange a vast amount of Child Sexual Abuse Material, as well as accessing children using the social online services.

Digital cameras, web-cams and mobile phones have made it much easier to produce high quality homemade sexual abuse material in private than in the days when complex chemical development processes were required.  The images and videos can be distributed using various online channels including peer-to-peer programmes, newsgroups, e-mails, and websites. In addition, the technology developed for legitimate purchase of goods and services on the Web is now being misused by criminals to exploit those with paedophile tendencies to sell them commercially produced Child Sexual Abuse Materials over the Internet. This has led to wider groups of children being emotionally and developmentally damaged by being drawn into this illegal sex industry.

What is “child pornography”?

The term ‘child pornography’ fails to describe the true nature of the material and undermines the seriousness of the abuse from the child’s perspective. Instead of pornography - sexually arousing material - the images and videos should be seen as evidence depicting children being victims of serious crimes and in desperate need of help.

Any visual depiction of child sexual abuse is solid evidence that documents the real sexual abuse that occurred and thereby the criminal victimisation of the child appearing in the image. At the time the picture was taken the child was subjected to degrading, abusive and humiliating criminal acts. No picture, video or any other recording of a child being sexually abused has been produced without the child suffering and being exploited.

Terms like “child sexual abuse images or material” should be used instead of “child pornography”, as these articulate more accurately the real nature of the m

The term ‘child pornography’ fails to describe the true nature of the material and undermines the seriousness of the abuse from the child’s perspective. Instead of pornography - sexually arousing material - the images and videos should be seen as evidence depicting children being victims of serious crimes and in desperate need of help.

Any visual depiction of child sexual abuse is solid evidence that documents the real sexual abuse that occurred and thereby the criminal victimisation of the child appearing in the image. At the time the picture was taken the child was subjected to degrading, abusive and humiliating criminal acts. No picture, video or any other recording of a child being sexually abused has been produced without the child suffering and being exploited.

Terms like “child sexual abuse images or material” should be used instead of “child pornography”, as these articulate more accurately the real nature of the material.

The harm for a child who has been subjected to sexual exploitation and subsequently knows that the images or videos are being distributed on the net may stem from several sources:

  • the abuse per se
  • being photographed or videoed as a victim of sexual abuse
  • the child’s knowledge or fear of other people’s awareness of the abuse
  • the child’s knowledge about the distribution of the material through public media
  • feeling of shame and awareness of the indecent nature of the experiences

Very few children who are abused for the purpose of image production voluntarily disclose their abuse.

Further information and definitions of what is child pornography can be found in Article 2 of the Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combatting the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

What is child trafficking or child sex tourism?

The United Nations defines child sex tourism as “tourism organized with the primary purpose of facilitating the effecting of a commercial-sexual relationship with a child.” In addition, child sex tourism may include  “the opportunistic use of prostituted children in  regions while traveling on  business or for other purposes.”

Thus, while sex tourists are considered “preferential” tourists (traveling abroad with the primary intent of having sex with children), there are “situational” or “opportunistic” offenders who exploit children during a business trip or vacation getaway simply out of convenience.

Child sex  tourism (CST) is  a  type of commercial sexual exploitation of children, along with child prostitution, pornography, and sex  trafficking. CST is a lucrative and ubiquitous practice affecting an estimated 2  million children worldwide, every year.

According to ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking  of Children for Sexual  Purposes), child sex tourism is especially prevalent in Asia, and  Central and South America.

What is online grooming?

The term “grooming” is used to describe the process carried out by offenders befriending the child with a view to sexually abusing them. It consists of creating conditions and relationships with the child, but also with other people influencing and protecting the child, and sometimes even more broadly with the whole community that enables the abuse to take place whilst minimizing the risk of being exposed or anyone understanding the serious nature of what is going on. The perpetrator aims to create an environment which allows, justifies and neutralizes the abusive activities, and confuses the perception of normal and abnormal relationship between children and adults.

Grooming usually precedes sexual abuse whether it takes place online or offline but new technologies provide offenders with easy access to children and enlarge the possibilities for manipulative interaction through interactive channels like social networking platforms, chat, interactive games etc. allowing  free access to children.

Anyone using online interactive channels may be targeted in online grooming attempts. The less children are provided age adequate appropriate information about sex and sexual relationships by the school or their parents, the more prone they are to seek information from websites or start sex related communication with someone they don’t know online.

There are specific characteristics found typical related to the communication aiming to online sexual abuse online 

  • People having sexual interest to children often tend to  approach children who appear emotionally vulnerable
  • People having sexual interest to children often approach the targets empathetically and try to earn the trust through pretending that they understand and will be able to provide support. They attempt to derive information concerning the targets personal life, where they live, their family status, the school they go to etc. and eventually often persuade the child or adolescent to send or share images of themselves or to perform in a sexual nature in front of their web-camera.

People having sexual interest to children are usually well informed about the current trends in fashion, sports, etc., and even the language used by children and teenagers

What is Sexting?

Sexting is the term used to describe the sending of sexually suggestive or explicit messages or photographs, typically via mobile phone. While normally consensual in the first instance, sadly many images end up widely circulated or posted online, especially when relationships end.

Sexting is an issue of growing concern for young people across the EU and the world. The originator quickly loses all control over the images, often with embarrassing, and potentially devastating consequences.

Images or videos that might be produced while ‘Sexting’ may be of a category that is treated as illegal.

As with all cases of possession, production and distribution of illegal material this could lead to prosecution.

For help understanding this and answers to concerns, our project partners INSAFE would be able to advise you and answer questions. Please visit their website http://www.saferinternet.org for further information and contact details.

How to protect children from online grooming and online related sexual abuse?

The children need to be empowered to respect their own rights and to recognise and reject unwelcomed contact at any level and also to approach their parents or other reliable adults for support. No technical solutions are enough to protect them from adverse material or approaches.

It is important:

  • to talk to your child frequently and know what happens in their life.
  • that your child feels comfortable enough to talk to you about whatever happens to him/her when using the Internet
  • alert your children to inform you immediately if someone they have met online asks them to meet in person.

The less children are provided age adequate appropriate information about sex and sexual relationships by the school or their parents, the more prone they are to seek information from websites or start sex related communication with someone they don’t know online. It is also essential to equip them with adequate information about sex and sexual relationships concerning the age level.

What is Hate speech?

In related topic, racism refers to an ideology or practice or behaviour towards a person or people, which classifies the worth of the person or people according to racial characteristics (such as colour, ethnicity and nationality). Racist websites that are considered illegal are mainly those that urge people to act against other people of specific race, colour, ethnicity or nationality.

Xenophobia refers to an intense fear of people from different ethnic, national or social group than one’s own. Xenophobic websites that are considered illegal are also those that urge people to act against people of different ethnic, national or social group than one’s own.

Please refer to the website of the International Network Against Cyberhate – www.inach.net – for more comprehensive information about this topic.

What do I need to know as a professional about child sexual abuse online?

In addition to the effective investigation of several crimes that relate to illegal content and associated child sexual abuse, there is a need to increase understanding about the phenomenon of child sexual abuse in relation to digital media, and how new technologies are being abused for criminal and harmful purposes.

The professionals working with or for children are at the frontline when it comes to empowering children, teaching them to insist on their rights and to have the courage to turn to adults in case of adverse experiences. These workers, if sufficiently equipped with understanding of child sexual abuse related to new technologies, have a unique opportunity to recognize the individual children’s need of help. Knowledge and open discussion of the possible risks empowers the children and adults to deal with adverse experiences and encourages children to disclose abuse. 

Where child sexual abuse is suspected it is vital to provide a safe and secure atmosphere and full support for the potential victim. It should be ensured that in addition to dealing with the sexual abuse as such, the problems caused by the fact that images or videos depicting the abuse will remain in continuous online circulation also needs to be  taken into consideration and the victim needs support in dealing with this.

Assistance and information for professionals can be found on http://www.saferinternet.org - the web site for our project partner INSAFE, who coordinate awareness raising and helpline safer internet centres.

Let’s all practice zero tolerance to child sexual abuse imagery. One report can make a difference. To the digital citizens out there, if you stumble across anything you suspect to be a child sexual abuse image or video, do the right thing, report it and once confirmed, with our industry and law enforcement partners, we will make sure such content is taken down as quickly and effectively as possible.

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