ACMA signs online child abuse notification scheme with police

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has signed formal agreements with state, territory and federal police for the reporting of online child abuse material in Australia.

Queensland and Victoria state police were the latest to join the scheme.

ACMA can now make reports to police anywhere in Australia where there is evidence about child sexual abuse content that is produced, hosted or accessed locally.

The authority can also report illegal and offensive content to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Crime Stoppers Australia.

“This national network – the first of its kind in Australia – greatly strengthens the ACMA’s role supporting the crucial work of Australian law enforcement against online child sexual abuse content," ACMA deputy chair, Richard Bean, said in a statement.

Bean said that reports about child sexual abuse content can be made to the ACMA hotline.

“If you are aware a child or other person is in immediate danger, or as at risk of serious harm, call the police on triple zero [000],” said Bean.

He added that ACMA is fighting to remove online child sexual abuse material from the Internet straight away.

“We often talk about how every such image removed from the Internet helps make the Internet a safer place for everyone – and this is true. However, of equal importance, is the prevention of the re-victimisation of the children involved.

“It's a sobering fact that many of those who have been abused in the past have to live with the knowledge that the evidence of their abuse may be available online for years or decades,” Bean said.

On July 18, ACMA released figures about Australian investigations into child abuse material. The 2013/14 financial year saw more than six times the number of Australian investigations into online child sexual abuse material.

ACMA conducted more than 7,600 individual investigations based on complaints in 2013/14, representing a 550 per cent increase in investigations from the previous year.

The authority attributed the increase in investigations to growing public awareness about how to combat this kind of illegal material online.

The regulator referred all investigated material to either the Australian police or to international law enforcement via the international community of Internet Hotlines (INHOPE). Nearly all investigations (99.5 per cent) lasted two days and the content was taken down within three days, the ACMA said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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