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IWF works with Meta, ICMEC and Child Helpline International on a new campaign against Child Sexual Abuse in Africa

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IWF works with Meta, ICMEC and Child Helpline International on a new campaign against Child Sexual Abuse in Africa

A new IWF project will protect children in Africa by taking a stand against online child sexual abuse, supporting the efforts of child helplines and key national stakeholders in the global fight against the spread of abuse material.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is joining forces with Meta (formerly Facebook), ICMEC (the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children) and Child Helpline International to raise awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse material, and how its spread can be prevented. Partners are supported by UNODC and MTN Group.

The IWF is the UK-based charity responsible for finding and removing images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse from the internet. 

The IWF has launched 49 portals all around the world, including 23 in Africa, which provide a safe and anonymous way for people to report illegal imagery if they discover it online.    

Now, together with Meta, ICMEC and Child Helpline International, the IWF is launching a campaign to help train law enforcement and child helplines in the African continent.

The campaign will focus on Algeria​, Cameroon​, Côte d’Ivoire​, Guinea Conakry​, Kenya​, Madagascar​, Mauritius​, Nigeria​, Senegal​, and South Africa. Countries are subject to change based on evolving national contexts.

On February 9, a panel event will be attended by stakeholders in these countries – with a focus on raising awareness of these issues, and encouraging companies to join the global fight against child sexual abuse material online.

The event will be attended by the IWF’s Director of Communications, Emma Hardy, as well as David Miles, Head of Safety at Meta – Europe, Middle East and Africa, Richard Ombono, Director of Programmes at Child Helpline International, Bob Cunningham, CEO of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), and Marina Madale, General Manager: Sustainability & Shared Value at MTN. It will be chaired by Guillermo Galarza, Vice President, Partnerships & Law Enforcement Trainings at the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). 

As well as working with national stakeholders through round table events and providing e-learning modules to build capacity on how to prevent and report child sexual abuse, the campaign will reach out to encourage tech companies to join the global fight against this harmful, criminal content.    

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Images and videos of child sexual abuse show real children who have been subjected to rape and sexual torture. Their suffering is real.  

Each time someone sees child sexual abuse online, the children depicted in the imagery are being revictimized over and over again. They can never move on, and the damage is lasting.’’

“Stopping the spread of this imagery is crucial for victims to finally be able to heal, but also to ensure that the internet is a safe environment for all. This is why projects like this are so important. We must all work together, all over the world, in order to achieve this.” 

David Miles, Head of Safety at Meta for Europe, Middle East and Africa said: “For more than a decade, we’ve been an industry leader in child safety around the world. We’ve helped build the tools used to investigate this terrible crime, rescue children and bring justice to victims. We also shared our anti-abuse technologies with other companies and we’re encouraging people to report harmful messages to us so we can respond swiftly and make referrals to the authorities. While we invest heavily in industry-leading tools to prevent such abuse from happening in the first place, it’s also important we spread awareness through campaigns and partnerships like this one so no child should ever have to face this abuse, whether offline or online.” 

ICMEC CEO Bob Cunningham said: “The epidemic of child sexual abuse material transcends borders, geography, and politics. This is a global problem that demands a global solution. Through this campaign, we are making another crucial step in creating a safer world for children by expanding the fight against CSAM by training and empowering law enforcement, child protection professionals and the general public with the most effective tools to respond to this crisis.”

Patrick Krens, Executive Director at Child Helpline International said: “Child helplines represent one of few services who have direct access to the feelings and needs of children and young people. Online child sexual exploitation and abuse demands a coordinated global response, and according to WeProtect’s Model National Framework, child helplines are exclusively recognized as 1 of 21 vital components in responding to this issue. We are delighted to be a key part of this capacity building project alongside IWF, Meta and ICMEC, which has helped us to expand two eLearning modules among our members in 10 focus countries. With these tools, our child helpline members and their frontline counsellors will have the tools and confidence to respond to children and young people who might be experiencing online child sexual exploitation and abuse.”

This capacity building campaign is part of a larger project, the Child Sexual Abuse (CSAM) Awareness Campaign, funded by both Meta and MTN Group and Operating Companies throughout the African continent. While Meta is supporting the capacity building efforts amongst key national stakeholders, working with industry partners and child helplines, MTN is funding the promotional aspect of the campaign aiming at raising awareness of child sexual abuse and how to report amongst the general public. Additionally, UNODC is an active project partner, supporting in-country capacity building events by engaging local stakeholders and UN agencies. UNODC is also playing an active role in coordinating in-person activities and advising on specific country needs. 

It is hoped the campaign will lead to the creation of more reporting portals, as well as greater public awareness of the issues surrounding child sexual abuse material. It is also hoped more partners based in Africa will join the effort to find and block illegal images and videos to prevent their spread.