New Framework Debuts for Preventing Technology-Facilitated Exploitation of Children

The Digital Economy Task Force– sponsored by Thomson Reuters and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) –released its report on the emerging digital economy and recommendations for policy makers, financial institutions, law enforcement and others to encourage its growth while preventing the sexual exploitation of children and other criminal activity. Task force leaders, including Vice Chair John Villasenor of the Brookings Institution and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, released the report at the National Press Club on March 4 and then presented the findings to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on March 5.

The Digital Economy Task Force (DETF), which includes leading experts from government, the private sector, academia, and think tanks, was formed to help address a vitally important question: How can we foster the many benefits that today’s information technologies can offer, while simultaneously preventing those same technologies from being misused to exploit children?

Co-chaired by Ernie Allen, President/CEO of ICMEC, and Steve Rubley, Managing Director of the Government Segment of Thomson Reuters, the DETF worked to identify a regulatory framework that fosters the growth of the digital economy, including digital currencies and alternate payment systems, while addressing anonymizing technology and the growth of “deep web” marketplaces that allow illegal commerce, including money laundering, narcotics, weapons, stolen goods, human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, and more.

“The digital economy and anonymizing technology hold great promise and societal value, from offering financial tools to the world’s unbanked, to protecting dissidents and journalists from unjust government reprisal,” said Rubley. “But these benefits are clouded by those who use the digital economy to commit illegal acts. While these are complicated issues, we believe that a regulatory framework can grow the digital economy – and confront those who seek to exploit it for illicit purposes.”

Recommendations from the report include: bolstering research into the intersection of the digital economy and illegal activities; increasing investment in law enforcement training and investigative techniques; enhancing cooperation between governmental agencies; the promotion of a national and global dialogue on policy; and more.

“The central challenge is Internet anonymity. There is an emerging ‘dark web’ that enables users to pay for their illegal transactions using digital currencies,” said Allen. “There is a difference between privacy and anonymity. We simply cannot create an environment in which traffickers and child exploiters can operate online with no risk of being identified unless they make a mistake.”

The DETF aims to educate the public and work collaboratively across stakeholder groups, including government agencies, law enforcement, corporations, academia, public and non-profit agencies, as well as key industry players. Task force members were selected from organizations including, but not limited to:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Bitcoin Foundation
  • The Brookings Institution
  • Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA
  • Mercatus Center at George Mason University
  • The Tor Project, Inc.
  • United States Secret Service

The DETF launched in August 2013 and developed working groups to address the sweeping impact of these technologies from fostering financial inclusion to combating illicit activities. The focus areas for these groups included safeguarding human rights, regulation, inter-agency coordination and law enforcement.

DETF members John Villasenor, Ernie Allen, and other international experts will speak on the topic of “Preventing Technology-Facilited Exploitation” at the next event in the UCLA Luskin Center hosted Digital Tech series.


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