Matthias Wenz, Deputy Head of a unit of the German Federal Police dedicated to crimes against children, talked about the current state of child abuse on the clearnet and darknet. He spoke about the limitations in child pornography investigations, the victims of these crimes, and the changes needed in punishing child pornography law violations.
He said some things likely overlooked by the general public and controversial to others:
- He questioned the use of investigative techniques employed in the operations that brought down Playpen, The Love Zone, and Childs Play.
- He agreed that laws needed changing when it came to child pornography cases, but that there was a “good reason” German Police could not upload their own child pornography.
- He says that the majority of the victims are young women.
- He said traveling sex tourists and pedophiles who remotely control child abuse are concerns.
- He said that many young people willingly send naked photos of themselves in exchange for payment, “unaware of the dangers…”
- That law enforcement needed a preventative approach when handling pedophiles.
“Pedophilia can not simply be turned off by police and law enforcement.” – Wenz
Below is direct translation from Main Post:
Question: Can the fight against child pornography be won on the internet?
Matthias Wenz: Child pornography platforms have meanwhile almost completely migrated to non-public accessible areas of the Internet, the so-called Darknet. There, many of the perpetrators feel relatively safe. But they are not. Today, we are much better staffed and technically better off than just a few years ago. This is also shown by our great investigative successes, including the strike against the pedophile network Elysium last year. In addition, international law enforcement cooperation has improved. (And they recently ended Tabooless Chat and another sexual abuse forum they have not publicly announced.)
The FBI and many other foreign law enforcement agencies have more powers in covert investigations than the BKA. Is Germany a safe country for pedophiles on the Internet?
Wenz: No! It is true that some of our foreign partners may themselves upload child pornography material to their covert investigations in order to gain the confidence of the perpetrators. That is not allowed in Germany, and there are good reasons for that. That’s why sometimes we do not get on with our investigation. Whether the powers of the investigators should be extended, however, is a question that must answer the policy, not us. But even with our current capabilities, we can effectively target pedophiles on the Internet.
Who are the perpetrators, who are the victims of child pornography?
Wenz: The perpetrators are mostly men. They come from all walks of life. Among them are Hartz IV recipients, employees, police officers, priests, prosecutors, engineers and paediatricians. The victims are mostly female and sometimes very young. In some cases, even infants are abused immediately after birth. Abuse sometimes involves severe physical violence. Among the pedophile criminals are also so-called “traveling sex offenders” who search abroad for their victims – for example, Southeast Asia – and pay accordingly for the abuse on the spot. In addition, there are also pedophiles who remotely control the misuse of a child via livestreams and webcams.
The Philippines is a hotspot for the sexual exploitation of minors on the Internet. Are German children at risk too?
Wenz: Yes. This is shown by our investigation successes in Germany, even though the commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents on the Internet happens fortunately only rarely here. However, parents should pay attention to how their children use smartphones and computers. Although most parents can not imagine: There are many teenagers who send nude pictures of themselves and are paid for it, for example, with Amazon vouchers. Many adolescents are unaware of the dangers that come with it and how they can be blackmailed.
Can the sexual abuse of children be resolved by investigation and punishment alone?
Wenz: No. Pedophilia can not simply be turned off by police and law enforcement. That’s why we need a holistic, preventive approach. At the Berlin Charité, for example, there is the program “Do not become a culprit”. It addresses people who see themselves as endangered.
On another note, to anyone out there researching these types of forums and sites on the darknet, the BKA website warns researchers should not conduct “their own research, since pages that contain child pornography may already be punishable by downloading [them].”