Justice Minister Dermot Ahern agreed on behalf of the Government to the new information exchange system that will be co-ordinated by Europol.
Child porn is one of the fastest growing internet businesses internationally and, last year, Ireland’s hotline reported a 62% increase in the number of child porn sites discovered being used in the country.
Not every EU country has a national alert system yet and justice ministers decided to help fund these with a central platform, the European Online Reporting System, to be operated by Europol.
At yesterday’s justice ministers’ meeting, Mr Ahern said: “We believe the fight against offences linked to the internet is an area which requires the adoption of special measures. These EU measures can assist our law enforcement bodies in their efforts to prevent and investigate the very important and increasing threat from cyber crime.
“We also support the involvement of Europol in the fight against cyber crime.”
The idea is that the authorities in each country will share their information with the other EU states through Europol and that they will alert every country to the problems.
“It will enable member states to exchange information more effectively and tackle this serious crime”, said Commission vice-president Jacques Barrot. The Commission is making €300,000 available from the EU budget to create the service.
The system will also allow members of the public to report sites with illicit content and when they come across cyber crime such as phishing, e laundering, So far, none of the 400 plus illegal sites picked up in Ireland originated in the country, but Mr Ahern has already said he was concerned that not all service providers are members of the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland that funds Hotline.ie. Their annual report warned the type of child pornography they are encountering was increasing in severity.
“Hotline analysts confirm they are seeing extremely explicit photos and videos of the rape and sexual abuse of children far more frequently than in previous years”.
The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the US says that a fifth of all porn on the internet involves children and infants and is no longer being made just by paedophiles.
“Within only a few years, child pornography has become a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise, and is among the fastest growing businesses on the Internet,” the organisation says. This has been facilitated through the use of digital and web cameras and the ability to use credit cards to purchase images and video.
INHOPE, an Europe-wide alert group part funded by the EU, said it receives 10,000 reports every month of illicit sites, mostly pornographic.
Europol already has a special cyber security service to combat threats to the EU’s internet and computer system from terrorists and hackers. They also deal with identity and data theft and fraud on the internet.