New tool to protect children from Net exploitation

Internet project to help crackdown on Net paedophiles

A new Internet tool developed to aid the fight against child exploitation on the Internet has been unveiled on Thursday by Glasgow University,

The Internet platform Net-Enforce, developed by the Centre for Europe's Children at the University of Glasgow, enables police forces and children's charities to trade criminal intelligence more quickly. It offers a secure access area for law enforcement authorities, immigration services and charities to exchange and communicate information on Net predators immediately in an attempt to reach the perpetrator before a child is sexually exploited.

The scheme is being launched by Dr Andy Bilson, director for the Centre for Europe's Children, at a two-day conference in Glasgow. Bilson explains that the growing need to protect children against international exploitation on the Internet means fighting fire with fire. His research has shown the only way to combat Net predators is by beating them with their own technology. "The problem of child exploitation on the Internet is it crosses national and organisational boundaries -- the Internet is the only suitable methodology to deal with it," said Bilson.

The Net-Enforce Web site combines a public and secure area, hosting anything from discussion forums through to the exchange of strategies or intelligence on cases of child abuse, prostitution or child pornography. The secure area is protected by secure socket links, which encrypts and offers password protection for sensitive information. "A distinction is made between information that's private and information that's of high value for someone else to break into," Bilson explained.

The conference will bring together over 50 key agencies from around Europe to discuss how the tool should be developed. Representatives from the National Crime Squad, Interpol and children's charities will be amongst those present. "We're hoping that it will help us to bring people together so that we can share intelligence, and involve the agencies working directly with children so that they don't get lost in the process," Bilson added.

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