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New Global Task Force Targets Online Sex Offenders


Law enforcement agencies from several English-speaking countries are joining forces to combat child abuse online. The are joining a Virtual Global Taskforce, which is designed to allow countries to share resources to identify and help children at risk of abuse and to prosecute the predators.

Law enforcement officials from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia met in Washington Wednesday to discuss the fight against online child abuse. The four nations are part of the Virtual Global Taskforce, which allows the government agencies to share investigative resources. John Clark, with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says increased worldwide Internet use has required a new approach in dealing with sex offenders.

"Globalization is a double-edged sword. We all are appreciative of all the benefits it brings, much as the Internet, but there [are] also dark sides to it," he said.

One dark side of the Internet is the ease with which sex offenders ignore country borders. Jim Plitt, the Director of ICE's Cyber Crime Center, says the taskforce makes it easier to follow cases across borders. "The child might be in one country, the pedophile in a second, the server in a third, the anonymizer, bounce box or other technology in another country and the money if it's a commercial website situation can be in several countries, that has to all be worked together," he said.

Plitt says an important piece of the cooperation is an around-the-clock watch system. One nation will police the Internet for a portion each day and then rotate the responsibility to another taskforce member.

Jim Gamble, of Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, says this watch system allowed local police to arrest an offender two hours after U.S. authorities learned in a chatroom that he planned to molest his children. Gamble says this new system turns offenders into targets. "The Internet is yet more hostile for the predator because we are working in this way. If you're thinking of going online tonight to identify and groom a vulnerable child, bear in mind that we're online looking for you and we're doing that 24/7," he said.

Gamble also says other countries, including Italy, have expressed interest in joining the taskforce in order to fight this global problem.