European Financial Coalition to stamp out sites by tracking online payments
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) has set up a coalition, which it hopes will "eradicate the remnants" of child sex abuse websites.
The European Financial Coalition (EFC), made up of payments companies and the police across Europe, will aim to stop sites that make a profit from selling or hosting these images by tracking the payments made to these sites.
Jim Gamble, chief executive of CEOP, said: "This coalition will allow us to better infiltrate paedophile networks. We will eradicate the profit that drives organised crime to this. It will take as long as is necessary."
Jaques Barrot, vice-president of the European Commission, which has allocated £427,000 to the EFC, said the number of websites set up by paedophiles had increased fourfold between 2003 and 2007.
"The increase of child pornography material is a serious reality. Child pornography networks on the internet have been identified recently in a number of European countries and have resulted in many arrests. But this is only the tip of the iceberg," he added.
Mr Barrot said he hoped the information provided by companies such as Mastercard, Visa and Paypal would stop these sites and "help protect the victims by following the money trail that takes the police to the offender".
Although he would not go into detail, Mr Gamble said the partners would work with each other across Europe and share information on the electronic payment systems that were used to buy child abuse images online or sign up to pay-per-view sites.
These would then be used by police to look at the suspected paedophiles' bank accounts, and to analyse their lifestyle.
Plans to update the Council Framework Decision Against Child Abuse Images will also form part of the EFC, with Mr Barrot saying he would make it illegal to access pay-per-view child pornography sites throughout the EU.
However, he said in order for the coalition to be fully effective, more partners, including the EU member states, needed to join.
Mr Gamble also admitted that eradicating peer-to-peer websites driven by a sexual interest in children, rather than by organised crime enterprises for profit, would be harder to tackle.
However, as paedophiles still rely on money to pay for equipment and the maintenance of their sites, he said the methods employed by the EFC would still be valuable in tracking them down.
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