Child sexual abuse imagery reporting platform to launch in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will soon have a platform allowing people to anonymously report child sexual abuse imagery on the Internet, and have it removed as quickly as 24 hours.

The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is working with Malaysian NGO Childline Foundation to launch the reporting portal here in June.

The portal allows users to send anonymous reports of sexual images and videos involving children, which is then sent to IWF analysts who work with the Internet industry and law enforcement to take down the images.

Childline Foundation project director and child rights activist Datin Wong Poai Hong said that the NGO's role is not only to host the portal in Malaysia, but to also work with authorities on the ground.

"IWF can take down images or videos based on reports, but in case they need further intervention on the ground, they need a local partner to work with the local authorities such as the police, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM) and Cybersecurity.

"If a Malaysian case comes up, they will need police intervention and child protection – the Ministry, which is in charge of children, will need to have people ready to rescue the child, whereas Cybersecurity will take the post down, ' said Wong.

Wong hopes that the IWF reporting platform will also convince many of the need for a dedicated government helpline for children.

Currently, children can dial 15999 to access the Talian Kasih helpline, which also handles calls relating to domestic violence; but Wong stressed that a dedicated child helpline with specially trained counsellors will better serve the needs and concerns of children.

Interventions to stop child sexual exploitation have become particularly urgent due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions around the world.

"We know that sexual abuse is rampant particularly within the family itself and also in the online space, and since children are now at home with nothing to do, there is also the increased danger they will get involved in self-created online sexual images, which is worryingly on the rise," said Wong.

She added that the IWF reporting platform also addresses the stigma and fear of reporting child sexual abuse in Malaysia, or the perception that reporting such cases is "troublesome".

"This portal allows immediate and anonymous reports of sexual images, and we can use technology to flag these cases and work with the authorities to take them down," said Wong.

Malaysia has the highest number of child pornography users in South-East Asia, according to authorities in 2018.

"We very much welcome this proposed initiated by IWF and Childline Foundation to launch the online reporting portal for tracking and taking down online sexual abuse images," said Datin Izzatul Shima, deputy undersecretary of the Policy and Strategic Planning Division in KPWKM.

"More and more children are taking to online and becoming increasingly exposed to online sexual violence in many forms.

"This is certainly aggravated during the MCO period, with children having longer screen time without parental control, and we agree this issue needs to be addressed now more than ever," she added.

Izzatul also shared that more than 400 websites containing child sexual abuse content were blocked through collaborations between Interpol and the Malaysian police, from 2015 and 2018.

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