The numbers surrounding pornographic images of children, and the child abuse that creates it, are so staggering that it’s difficult not to be disheartened. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), their cyber tipline received over 42.9 million reports by November 2018. NCMEC had also reviewed over 267 million images and videos, and identified over 15,800 victims of online child exploitation and abuse.
Abusers are operating on computers nationwide, and shockingly, are bold enough to be circulating and sharing images on government computers. As a result, Congress saw a need to step up the battle against child exploitation and introduced the End Network Abuse Act (otherwise known as the End National Defense Network Abuse Act).
It’s well known that abusers who consume or create child pornography will go to any length to avoid detection. What wasn’t known until recently was how many of them would take their behaviors to government networks and computers - specifically, Department of Defense computers. This information came to light as a result of an investigation called “Project Flicker”, carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This investigation identified over 5,000 individuals, including many associated with the D.O.D., who subscribed to child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
Hundreds of individuals from the D.O.D. were identified as suspects, and several had even brazenly used their government devices to both view and share content. Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Mark Meadows saw a gap in the system that needed to be addressed, so they introduced the bipartisan bill to halt the ability of offenders to use D.O.D. computer networks to share or procure CSAM.
This bill identifies the difficulties surrounding the reporting and identifying victims as well as the overwhelming need for continuing and advanced training on tools and technologies to keep up with this vast landscape of abuse and exploitation. The END Network Abuse Act, when it passes, will require all investigative organization officials at the D.O.D. to be trained in online investigative tools, technologies, and techniques; computer forensics; complex evidentiary issues; child victim identification; child victim referral for comprehensive investigation and treatment services, and; related instruction.
The Act also requires the D.O.D. to engage in partnerships with groups such as law enforcement, child protection services, children’s advocacy services, and trauma-informed healthcare providers to minimize the impact of the images and halt their spread.
ADF Solutions is also dedicated to the fight against online child exploitation and abuse. Our fast, innovative digital forensics software is used by investigators and analysts globally to combat CSAM. For more information on our software and our work the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces, download our ICAC White Paper here.