Minster for Justice and Equality encourages industry to sign-up to Hotline.ie
- During Covid-19, Gardaí have observed a 29% increase in traffic on monitored sites on the Dark Web which are exclusively dedicated to online child sexual exploitation.
- Hotline.ie Annual Report 2019 will show the largest number of child sexual abuse material reports classified and actioned since 1999, and a year-on-year increase of 79% on 2018 figures.
22 July, 2020
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee TD, has today welcomed the publication of the updated Code of Practice for Hotline.ie, the national reporting service for potentially criminal content online. This updated Code of Practice, undertaken in line with commitments under the National Action Plan for Online Safety, reflects the essential role of industry, working together with Hotline, to safeguard the public against potentially criminal content, especially child sexual abuse material.
In the foreword to the updated Code of Practice, Minister McEntee stated:
“For over 20 years Hotline.ie has supported collaboration between Gardaí and industry partners and plays a vital child protection role in combatting the illegal, harmful and predatory use of the internet. I am very grateful to the staff of Hotline.ie for their commitment and professionalism in addressing this dreadful crime.”
The updated Code takes account of the rapidly evolving online environment, advancements in technology, new uses of technology and the internet, and new forms of online behaviour. It comes at a time when, as noted in EUROPOL’s recent ‘Exploiting Isolation’ report, the world is witnessing a significant surge in the consumption and dissemination of child sexual abuse material online during the COVID-19 crisis. Nationally, An Garda Síochána’s Online Child Exploitation Unit has observed a 29% increase in traffic on sites being monitored on the Dark Web which are exclusively dedicated to online child sexual exploitation.
Considering this recent upsurge against the broader trend of an increasing proliferation of persons accessing child sexual abuse material, as reflected in the findings in Hotline.ie’s forthcoming Annual Report for 2019, Minister McEntee noted that:
“2019 saw the largest number of child sexual abuse material reports classified and actioned by Hotline.ie since it was set up in 1999, and represents a year-on-year increase of 79% on 2018.
“I welcome the launch of the updated Code, which seeks to offer further protections to the victims of the proliferation of heinous child sexual abuse material, and also to members of the public and employees who may be exposed to the harmful effects of this material online. The Code’s enhanced focus on advisory and assessment services relies on increased collaboration across the entire industry”
In line with the National Action Plan, the Minister has written to industry to encourage companies to sign-up to this essential national service. The Minister commented,
“Combatting illegal, harmful and predatory use of the internet requires the broadest multi-agency responses possible. Hotline.ie supports such a collaborative approach, serving as both a conduit between An Garda Síochána and industry members and as a knowledge hub for industry.”
Notes for Editors:
Established in 1999, Hotline.ie works with national and international partners in law enforcement and industry to ensure that whilst child sexual abuse material is removed from the Internet, the children within images may also be identified and safeguarded. This work is essential to disrupting the cycle of Online Child Sexual Exploitation, preventing repeat-victimisation of survivors of child sexual abuse, and supporting law enforcement investigations. Hotline.ie operates in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, and its operations and procedures are overseen by the Department of Justice and Equality.
Alongside this ‘Notice and Takedown’ referrals procedure, Hotline.ie also provides its members with expert advisory and assessment services for the operational handling and processing of harmful and potentially illegal content.
Hotline.ie is Ireland’s primary channel for members of the public to register anonymous and confidential reports regarding potentially criminal content online, especially child sexual abuse material. Hotline.ie is part of the INHOPE global network of 46 member hotlines leading the fight against Online Child Sexual Exploitation.
The shared services provided by Hotline.ie include:
Processing and triaging of reports by members of the public of suspected illegal content online. Triaging involves the assessment of reported material by hotline.ie analysts, trained in line with international best-practice;
Issuing ‘Notice and Takedown’ referrals (NTDs), and providing member companies with clear guidance on the status of content without member companies having to expose their staff to illegal content;
Providing expert advisory and assessment services to member companies on best practices for the operational handling and processing of harmful and potentially illegal content, with an emphasis on protecting and maintaining the safety and wellbeing of member company employees coming in contact with such content.
Supporting the exchange of expertise, knowledge, and best online safety practices across the community of member companies.
Acting as an international and domestic focal point for member companies to collaborate on projects of common interest for a safer internet and greater child protection online
The Government Action Plan for Online Safety is available here. Hotline.ie’s 2019 Annual Report is currently being finalised and is envisaged to be published in the coming weeks.