Europol publishes clues from child abuse images in bid to find offenders

Agency hopes details such as a logo on a bag or a cleaning product may alert someone

 

Police agency Europol has created a new webpage that displays clothing and other items in child sex abuse images in a bid to use social media to find the perpetrators and the victims.

The agency hopes details such as a logo on a bag or the name on a cleaning product may alert someone who can then contact police by an anonymous tip-off or via social media.

The project is an attempt by Europol to harness the global reach of digital media to try and catch those involved in abusing children. The website can be found at europol.europa.eu/stopchildabuse.

The agency is aware that digital tools such as live-streaming have increased the ways in which the abusers disseminate photos and videos of children being abused.

Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, said the “victim identification task Force held at Europol has repeatedly shown the significant possibilities of rescuing victims of child abuse through experts working together analysing abuse images.”

“In many of these cases the key breakthrough has been established through a small piece of information such as identification of objects in the background of the image that provide a vital clue to investigators.”

These items can be a shampoo bottle, a magazine cover or even wallpaper.

“This innovative project seeks to use the global reach of the internet to allow the public to contribute to this investigation process and to play a real part in the global prevention of child abuse.

“Remember, your help can provide the one piece of information that leads to the rescue of a child,” said Mr Wainwright.

As part of the project, Europol has released a series of images linked to child abuse in which the abuse has been removed and the image cropped to focus on mundane items that also appear in the photograph.

The police agency is hoping to trace the location or country where these items are found.

In one instance the item is a shopping bag which Europol has zoomed in on so that the logo is clear in the hope that someone will recognise it.

Twenty images at a time will go up on the website, Stop Child Abuse.

The first batch published on Wednesday includes a ram or unicorn logo on a tiny blue and white polo T-shirt, an orange pamphlet and a medicine bottle behind a baby lying on a changing mat.

The site allows readers who see the image to send an anonymous tip to Europol or share on social media.

Europol concedes that child abuse investigations are among the most challenging and that in the cases linked to the photos published online, the policy agency has exhausted all its leads and is now looking for the help of the public.

“We are convinced that more eyes will lead to more leads and will ultimately help to save these children.”

Europol says the approach works and that recently two victims were identified following the identification of food packaging and waste containers in the background of child abuse imagery.