In the digital age, the fight against child abuse has taken on new dimensions. One of the most innovative approaches to this issue is the “Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object” campaign, a unique crowdsourcing initiative launched by Europol in 2017. This campaign, as detailed in a comprehensive article by Bellingcat, leverages the power of the public to help trace the origin of objects found in the background of child abuse images, thereby aiding in the identification and apprehension of the perpetrators.
The campaign was born out of necessity, as the number of child abuse cases continued to rise and traditional investigative avenues proved insufficient. The concept behind the campaign is as straightforward as it is powerful: the public is asked to help identify objects extracted from the background of child abuse images. These objects, often mundane and overlooked, can sometimes provide the crucial clues that lead to the identification and rescue of victims.
Europol’s victim identification specialists play a critical role in this process. They meticulously analyse images and videos frame-by-frame to identify anything that might help determine the origin, location, or the identity of the victim. The objects identified can range from simple items like a street sign or a news programme on a TV in the background, to more obscure objects that require public assistance to identify.
The campaign has already seen significant success. With the public’s help, it has led to the rescue of 10 children and the arrest of 3 offenders, with over 26,000 tips received. The public is urged to visit the campaign’s website and report if they recognise an object or any details about its origin, be it from a shop, location or a time period. All reports can be made securely and anonymously, reinforcing the notion that no clue is too small.
The “Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object” initiative is a testament to the power of collective effort in combating child abuse. It leverages the global reach of the internet, allowing the public to contribute to the investigation and play a real part in preventing global child abuse. This campaign is a shining example of how technology, when used effectively, can serve as a powerful tool in the fight against crime and injustice.