Civil Hotline

Child Focus as a civil hotline for reporting online images of sexual abuse of children

Child Focus, the Foundation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, is a private organisation, recognised as being of public utility, which has been operational since March 31st 1998.

 

The Foundation’s mission, both at national and international level, is firstly to actively support investigations into the disappearance, abduction or sexual exploitation of children, and secondly to help prevent and combat these phenomena.

Child Focus always acts solely in the interests of children. To help combat the sexual exploitation of minors, the Foundation is also involved in action against online images of sexual abuse of children (child pornography) on the Internet.

 

In 2002, Child Focus decided to set up a civil hotline for reporting such images. This fits the European Commission’s efforts to prevent illegal content on the Internet, and was thus created with the Commission’s support.

www.stopchildporno.be is a Belgian non-police hotline. Child Focus does not conduct investigations itself, but has a co-operation agreement with the police and the judiciary. Together with the police and the judiciary, Child Focus wants to ensure that as many images as possible of sexual abuse of children disappear from the Internet.

The objective of the civil hotline and the information provided on the Child Focus website is to increase Internet users’ sense of responsibility by providing them useful information about the problem and allowing citizens to report such images to Child Focus, anonymously if they wish, with the ultimate goal of ensuring their removal from the Internet.

 

Reporting images via the Child Focus hotline can be done anonymously, and hotline staff are bound by professional secrecy. At the moment, Child Focus transfers all reports directly to the Federal Police without opening them. If investigation shows that the reported images are in fact images of child sexual abuse, the provenance of the images is checked. If the website is hosted in Belgium, the Belgian authorities are brought in to conduct further investigation into the abuse itself. At the same time, a request is also made to the Belgian Internet service providers to take down the images. If the website in question comes from abroad, the Belgian Federal Police transfers it to its colleagues in that hosting country. Child Focus is trying to get a more operational role in this procedure, as is the case for almost all civil hotlines abroad. 

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