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Winning Software That Tracks Child Sex Abuse Image Traders Good News For Children

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

10 September 2008 - UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) is congratulating a Department of Internal Affairs' team for its efforts to protect children worldwide by developing a computer programme that tracks down traders of child sex abuse images.

UNICEF nominated the Censorship Compliance Unit for the Every Child Counts Annual Institutional Award announced in Wellington today. The Unit won the award, which recognises an institution or organisation that has made a significant difference in the past year to improve the status and wellbeing of children.

UNICEF Domestic Advocacy Manager Barbara Lambourn says that the software, "Super Squirrel Hunter", is good news for children because it enhances the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify people who trade images of children being sexually abused by adults over the Internet.

"The development of the Internet has made the transfer of child sex abuse images around the world much easier and created difficulties in tracing the users.

"Every image represents the actual abuse of a child and every trader and consumer of such images is an abuser of children. The abuse continues every time an image is accessed."

The Censorship Compliance Unit developed the Super Squirrel Hunter software as a way to pinpoint the country of origin of users of child images, leaving them no place to hide. Initially it was designed to identify New Zealanders who are trading child sex abuse images.

The success in New Zealand has led to the software being used by law enforcement agencies in 18 other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Germany and France.

"Child pornography and extreme images such as sexual torture of children are demeaning to children and contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child," says Ms Lambourn.

"The Department of Internal Affairs is to be commended for making the investment of time and resources needed to fight the scourge of child pornography. This commitment and the commitment of the members of the Censorship Compliance Unit team is making a huge difference to enhancing the safety and protection of children both in New Zealand and overseas." Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary, Regulation and Compliance, Keith Manch says the Department is rightly proud of the censorship team's work.

"In the 12 years it has been operating the unit has forged an international reputation for its work with like-minded law enforcement agencies combating child sex abuse through the Internet," says Mr Manch.

"The results they've achieved with their home-grown technology has saved young victims from further sexual abuse and punished those who indulge in this despicable practice and trade.

"We want offenders to know that the net is cast wide through Interpol and agencies like ours and that we have the means to track them down."

The award was announced at the Every Child Counts Conference which runs 10-11 September in Wellington. Every Child Counts is a coalition formed by UNICEF, Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children and the Institute of Public Policy at Auckland University of Technology.

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