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Feature: Child Exploitation Material Reduction Research Program

In July 2018 the AIC established the Child Exploitation Material Reduction Research Program using funding received under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The program seeks to reduce the production, distribution, storage and viewing of child exploitation material (CEM).

We approached the market in October 2018, offering total funding of $800,000 for research into ways of reducing CEM offending. To help generate ideas for research projects, the AIC co-hosted a roundtable with the AFP’s Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation in Brisbane on 1 November 2018. The roundtable brought together academics, technology specialists, investigators, intelligence experts and policymakers to explore ways of preventing and detecting CEM offending.

In January 2019, eight projects were awarded funding. These projects aim to reduce CEM offending in different ways. The aims are as follows:

  • to develop an evidence-based psychological treatment program to prevent CEM offenders from reoffending (Swinburne University and Monash University);
  • to determine the most effective criminal justice responses to CEM offending (University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology);
  • to develop an automated ‘webcrawler’ tool that uses biometric technology to detect new CEM and the victims and perpetrators involved (University of Adelaide, Flinders University, San Jose State University and Michigan State University);
  • to produce an online toolkit informing government and practitioners of the most effective evidence-based prevention measures (University of the Sunshine Coast);
  • to analyse the processes involved in CEM production and distribution to help investigators detect and prevent these offences (Griffith University, University of New South Wales and Michigan State University);
  • to examine whether automated pop-up messages deter children and young people from uploading explicit images they have created (University of Tasmania, La Trobe University, University College London and University of Canberra);
  • to produce guidelines for police to follow when posing as children online to identify offenders (Griffith University and Queensland Police Service); and
  • to understand the role of parents in producing CEM of their children in order to identify ways of detecting these offences (University of New South Wales and Queensland Police Service).

The projects will be completed in 2020 and the findings presented at a conference in Brisbane. The findings are expected to help law enforcement, corrections, child protection and other agencies to disrupt and prevent CEM offences.

Photos from the roundtable held in Brisbane. In the main photo are Deputy Director Rick Brown, AFP Deputy Commissioner Operations Neil Gaughan, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and Director Michael Phelan.