Yesterday, a 36 year old man was prosecuted for sex offences in the United Kingdom.
You’ll find quality reporting on the case in the local Eastern Daily Press.
He pleaded guilty to intentionally causing or inciting boys to engage in sexual activity, blackmail, intentionally causing children to look at sexual images and intentionally facilitating the sexual exploitation of children by sending on images of those children.
His name was David Nicholas Wilson and he pretended to be a teenage girl while grooming 51 boys aged from 4 (four) to 14 (fourteen). The NCA fear that his victims may actually number as many as 500 in the UK and abroad.
This crime type is what we know in the trade as Online Sexual Coercion and Extortion of Children (OSCE) but the press generally simplify it to “Sextortion”. There is a great detailed explainer on the Europol site here.
The thing about this crime type is that the multiplier effect of ICT allows one offender to contact thousands of children knowing that a percentage of them will respond and engage. In this case his preferential target was young boys so most likely he was operating on gaming platforms before bouncing the ones who responded onto other platforms.
Now, while I do not have any knowledge of this case apart from the newspaper articles, I have read that the offender was traced because Facebook found abusive images, while scanning their network, that had been shared by young users to an apparent teenage girl; saw them for what they were and reported that to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the USA. They passed the Cybertip to the National Crime Agency in the UK, who got a warrant to search the house of the offender and put him before the courts.
NCMEC processes millions (6 zeros!) of these Cybertips every year from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yubo, Snapchat etc. and forwards them to law enforcement all over the globe for assesment and action where appropriate.
The above process is currently under threat from two directions:
- ePrivacy directive/ Electronic Communications Code coming into force on 21st December will stop companies voluntarily scanning their network for grooming behaviour and CSAM. The EU Parliament must accept the derogation, applied for by the commission, if this work is to continue.
- The introduction of end to end encryption by Facebook on their messenger product
Safety –v Privacy is a complex area of society that needs proper, respectful and holistic debate.
The 51 real life boys he abused should be more than a footnote in that debate. It cannot just be an inconvenient truth to be brushed aside by privacy advocates and activists who rightly claim that all communications should be private.
I fundamentally agree but argue that there is a difference between #privacy and #encryption.
There must be a middle ground where society can protect children and other vulnerable people from criminals like David Nicholas Wilson.
Please sign the petition