Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting a Grip

The internet has been termed today’s “wild west” where anything goes. In the days of Wild Bill and the James brothers, the bad boys rode into town in a cloud of dust with guns blazing. Everyone knew who they were and was aware of their intentions and activity. Today’s bad boys (and girls) can sit at home in the comfort and anonymity of their bedrooms and do far more damage than any gun-toting savage of yesterday. Brandishing keyboards and cameras instead of guns, they swagger through cyberspace like a law unto themselves, savaging the innocence of children through child pornography, stalking and preying on naive young people.

But not so fast, Kemo Sabe. Just as the wild west was tamed and is now a pleasant place where families can travel in peace, changes are being made online. Heroes of today are making meaningful strides in protecting our young people.

Last month, it was announced that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström would launch a global alliance targeting online child sexual abuse. With so many cross-border police operations that have brought down international pedophile networks, a network of agencies dealing with trafficking and abuse issues is gaining strength and functionality. With experience cracking criminal networks like Dreamboard, a members-only online bulletin board to promote pedophilia and encourage sexual abuse of very young children, the good guys are becoming more and more sophisticated in their understanding of how these groups work and how to dismantle them.

In December, officials from 27 EU member nations and officials from 22 countries outside the EU, including the United States, participated in a ministerial conference to address the issues. At the core of their discussions is a commitment to caring for victims, enhancing efforts to prosecute offenders, increasing children’s awareness of online risks and reducing the availability of child abuse material online.

The protection of children is moving ahead and making headway.

While it’s difficult to stomach the reasoning behind all the previously confidential documents created by the Boy Scouts, the fact that they are in existence and have been made public gives the good guys deeper insight into the minds and workings of predators. Increased public awareness of how child predators operate and increased boldness of victims in speaking out may be helping to reduce child sex abuse. While the news was full of stories about institutions like Penn State, the Boy Scouts and the BBC last year, the stories had a positive side in that they all concerned people being caught or exposed or groups and organizations changing policies towards offenders.

Things are changing. We’re starting to get a grip. Predators should be very worried because the days of the wild west internet are changing. This does not mean we can let down our guard. Quite the contrary. It means our efforts are making more of a difference. It’s time to take heart and work harder to protect our kids.

© Diane Roblin-Lee   Jan. 30/13

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