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Chapter 3: Cybercrime and Internet Paedophile activity
The Australian Crime Commission and child sex offences
Australian Crime Commission (ACC) observed in evidence to the Inquiry that
while child sex offences and Internet pornography are not directly an ACC area
of operation, the ACC co-ordinates all national criminal intelligence, and that
includes intelligence regarding paedophiles and crimes committed via the Internet. Further, the incorporation of the Australian
Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, into the ACC has given the Commission
responsibility for information and projects which concern child sex offenders.
areas of concern to the Inquiry emerged during the Committee hearings:
to the Internet and its use to transmit pornographic child sex imagery;
'grooming' in chat rooms by paedophiles which can end in actual contact with
the child; and
access to material unsuitable for children.
dangers to children emanate from two areas: the active seeking out of children
for chat room activity, and the availability of unsuitable material on the Internet
for children to view.
with this activity are the problems of investigation, detection, gathering
evidence and prosecuting. The ephemeral
nature of Internet material, and the absence of any requirement for Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) to retain records, demands swift action before the
evidence disappears. While there is a
general discussion of these issues in Chapter 2, this chapter focuses on the
impact on paedophile cyber activity.
The internet and anonymity
evidence provided to the Committee
demonstrated that the Internet has brought with it a global facility which
allows paedophiles to extend their activities in a clandestine way. Reports of adults preying on children through
the use of Internet 'chat rooms' have periodically featured on news bulletins,
and were also referred to in the course of the Committee’s hearings.
of technological progress allows more opportunities for paedophiles to use the Internet
in more sophisticated ways. In his
submission to the Inquiry, Mr Darren Brookes
noted that there has been significant change in the methods of operation of
paedophiles in a short time. Mr Brookes gives the example of the development of the 'web
cam' which allows live images to be broadcast to chat rooms and Internet
computer conferencing (known as IRC or Internet Relay Chat).
submission from Mr Doug Stead, President of a Canadian Company 'Tri-M' related an example of an
Australian on-line predator who was able to co-opt a Canadian child using
relatively simple technology. The
example also highlighted the co-operation between Australian and Canadian
police in intercepting the perpetrator. 
Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) also referred to the increased
opportunities provided by the Internet for paedophile activity and noted that
this has been a focus of concern for policy makers, the Internet industry and
submission to this inquiry, the National Child Protection Clearing House (which
operates from the Institute
of Family Studies) said:
The Internet has become a popular means of recruiting children
for sexual purposes because it provides easy access to children and a reduced
risk to offenders of being identified.
concerns were expressed by the Victoria Police:
Millions of child pornography images and movies are available on
the Internet via news groups, peer to peer sites, chat channels ... A number of commercial organised rings have
been identified and those sites have turned over many hundreds of thousands of
Committee observed that the anonymity of this environment also allows the
formation of web-based communities in which material can be exchanged by
submission to the Inquiry, Dr Patrick Forde from the Curtin Business School
observed that email remailers (where there is an interim mail address which
does not trace back to the initiating address) or hidden peer-to-peer networks
are examples of advanced Internet devices which require considerable technical
knowledge to use. (A peer-to-peer network is sometimes abbreviated to 'P2P'. It
refers to any group of individual computers that can communicate with one another. Some of these operate undetected under the
normal Internet structure, and are extensively used by paedophiles to
distribute illegal and objectionable material.)
Pornographic imagery: Possession and Access
also the associated matter of unsolicited material sent by email and the extent
to which its presence on a person’s computer, even unopened, can constitute an
offence of possession of pornography.
submission, Electronic Frontiers noted that:
[Not only are] Internet
users confronted with unwanted material, they also face the risk of criminal
conviction for possession of material that came into their possession without
their knowledge or consent. Generally, recipients of this type of material
suffer in silence because if they report the criminal activity to law enforcement
agencies, they risk being prosecuted for possession. 
In evidence, it was claimed that recipients of unwanted obscene e-mails
who had reported them to the police were then charged with possession of
The Committee noted that the
situation outlined in this evidence has the potential to criminalise activity
which may not deserve that description.
The issue which arises from this is: when can an email be said to be in
the possession of a person? There are several possibilities:
lands in the computer mailbox;
is opened by the addressee;
is downloaded by the addressee and saved and printed.
The issue of the nature of possession of material on computers was a
recurring one throughout the Inquiry.
Committee observed that the law on this area varies from state to state, and
there is no Commonwealth legislation which is specifically directed at this
area. For example, in New South Wales, the offence of possession of child pornography
(Section 578B Crimes Act 1900 NSW), is a summary offence, and the
maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment or 100 penalty units ($11,000).
contrast, the Committee noted that under section 70 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Victoria), the offence of 'knowingly possess child
pornography', is indictable, and the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment,
with no option of a fine.
currently no similar Commonwealth legislation with the exception of the Classification (Publications, Films and
Computer Games) Act 1995, which is very limited in scope to those items
unclassified or those classified RC (refused classification).
nationwide (and worldwide) disparity in offence provisions, defences, and
penalties is a barrier to effective control of this material. Furthermore, the jurisdictional issues raised
by Internet material being circulated around the country and around the world
make efficient detection of its source extremely difficult and resource
The Committee notes with concern that the lack of consistent
legislation in this area is an impediment to detection and prevention of these
offences. The differences in penalties,
and in the nature of what constitutes an offence can result in activities which
when perpetrated in one jurisdiction are a minor offence, but when committed in
another jurisdiction are more serious.
Without consistent approaches across jurisdictions the ability to
eliminate this behaviour is weakened.
While it is clear that there are significant jurisdictional issues
involved in developing and implementing a nationally (and internationally)
consistent system of offences and penalties, the Committee considers it a matter of urgency to ensure as
far as possible that there are consistent sanctions and penalties applied to
these offences across the country.
In this context the Committee notes the evidence from the Attorney-General’s
the government will introduce new offences and will provide a
nationwide avenue to investigate, prosecute and punish those who use the Internet
for trade in child pornography. These offences would carry a maximum penalty of
10 years imprisonment which [is similar to that which] would apply for bringing
in hard copies through the customs barrier.
The Attorney-General’s Department indicated
that the proposed legislative amendments will be released as an exposure draft.
The Committee supports the release as an exposure draft and
considers that it is important that the timelines for public discussion be
sufficient for informed public consideration.
Use of chat
rooms by children
Computer literate children can easily use the chat room
environment. There is currently no way of effectively
preventing Internet chat room activity engaged in by paedophiles and their
victims. The Victoria Police noted in their submission that many paedophiles
adopt the on-line profile of a young child,
and 'groom' them for later meetings, all of which goes undetected.
evidence the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) told the Committee that
can include hundreds of thousands of potential offenders. The nature of the offence makes
control imperative but the size of the problem militates against effective
detection and prevention.
The NSW Police told the hearing that the United States Federal Bureau of
Investigation engages covertly in chat rooms to identify paedophiles. There is no shortage of offenders,
but the problem is determining who is the most dangerous, and who should be
targeted first. The Committee notes that
implied in this is a method of determining a profile of those most at risk as
well as those who are most likely to offend.
Some guidance was offered by the National Child Protection Clearing
House (NCPCH) who stated in their submission to the Inquiry that the ease of
access and the anonymity of the Internet made it a perfect environment for a
paedophile to misrepresent himself as another child or friend or a 'caring
parent figure' to vulnerable children.
The NPC Clearing House cited some limited research from the U.S. which gives some
indication of those who may be at risk as victims of Internet sexual offenders.
The list of profiles includes:
with low self esteem;
who have been maltreated;
children with learning or social problems;
over 14 who had been exposed to 'negative life events' (maltreatment or
The NPC Clearing House also indicated similar research has been done on
the profile of typical offenders, and while urging caution, cited a UNESCO
meeting of experts on child abuse and the Internet which noted a recent
increase in offences by people who are sexually indiscriminate and who use
children if they are available. In evidence, the NPC
Clearing House added that parents often do not realise the extent to which
children access the Internet in multiple ways. This suggests to the Committee that the
supervision of a child’s computer use is an important factor in the prevention
of child exploitation and abuse by Internet paedophiles.
The Committee notes that in the United Kingdom, the Government has
acted on the use of chat rooms by paedophiles to target children. The ABA informed the Committee that the Sexual Offences Bill [HL] would make
using a chat room or similar place for the purpose of engaging a child in
paedophile activity a special offence.
Access to unsuitable content by
At its Melbourne hearing, the Committee observed that the availability of unsuitable
material to children is an Internet access issue. At the Ninth Australasian
Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, held in Sydney on 24 to 27 November 2003 the potential risk
of this access was illustrated in the paper entitled 'Child Protection and the Internet'.
The authors noted disturbing research from the Canberra Hospital which:
showed that sexually aggressive children under ten years, who
have not personally experienced sexual assault but who have had exposure to
sexually offensive material, are being seen at an unprecedented level. 
The Committee notes there is a dilemma in allowing adult
access to material which should be restricted for children, but not necessarily
The Committee looked at what is
available for parents to monitor and control their children’s use of the Internet. The ABA told the Inquiry of
a number of initiatives which it has established to promote community awareness
of Internet safety in Australia. They include:
for parents and children regarding the safe use of the Internet.
arrangements with a number of bodies, including educational authorities to
distribute this material.
registration of Internet Codes of Practice.
complaints mechanism which can result in websites originating in Australia being removed, and those originating
overseas to an international organisation.
This only applies to websites, and not to chat rooms.
Committee was also informed about a number of filtering software packages,
which can be installed on computers to block access to unsuitable material, and
prevent unsuitable material reaching the user.
The filters currently available do not block chat room activity.
reservations about the effectiveness of these programs. The ABA’s pamphlets warn of the limited effectiveness
of filters, and in evidence the ABA added that they are not the sole tool upon
which parents should rely:
[A filter] either
shoots too wide or it is too narrow. It lets in material that it should not,
and it stops material that you would not be offended by if your children saw
This view was also held by Symantec Australia who told the
... you will never get 100 per cent risk
reduction ... you will never be able to filter out all the pornography, the
bomb-making recipes, the nasty pictures or anything that is used in
chat rooms ... The tools are not strong enough to be able to manage heuristics or
artificial intelligence to the level that people would like to see.
Symantec also took the view which was supported by other witnesses and
submittors on this subject that there is no substitute for parental supervision
of children’s Internet use.
The Committee also considers that while it is clear that Internet
filtering devices can be of some use in supporting parents in their supervisory
task, the evidence has demonstrated that solely to rely on these to prevent
children seeing and having access to inappropriate material still risks
exposing the children to that material, or inhibits adults’ access to items
which may be quite suitable for them, but not for their children.
The Committee observed that,
while there are educational initiatives which publicise the dangers of
children’s unsupervised use of the Internet (such as those pursued by the ABA),
they do not appear as yet to be as widely disseminated as they need to be in
order to be effective. The Committee notes that such a
public education role is not one that falls within the parameters of the ACC’s
functions. However, in this context the Committee is particularly
mindful of the terms of The United Nations resolution no. 55/63: 'Combating the
Criminal Misuse of the Information Technologies' which clearly states that the
public should be made aware of the 'need to prevent and combat the criminal
misuse of information technologies.' 
(See Appendix 4).
While acknowledging that there are always financial constraints on
providing published resources and advertising, the Committee believes that an awareness
by parents of the potential criminal use of the Internet, and in particular
chat rooms, in relation to children should be promoted. Equally, there is a need for parents to
accept that they have a responsibility to supervise and monitor their
children’s use of the Internet. The
evidence provided to the Committee supported the
involvement of parents in their children’s Internet usage, as a measure to
prevent their exposure to unsuitable content.
The Committee is of the view that parents and children alike need the
information. It commends the work the ABA is undertaking in this respect but
that work needs to be reinforced. The
Committee believes that reinforcing the ABA’s message should take place across
a number of media and should include a community service program.
The Committee recommends that the Government investigate
partnerships for establishing a multimedia public education campaign on the
risks associated with and the safe use of information technology by children,
including parental supervision.
Investigating and detecting
The investigation of Internet paedophile activity is a challenge for law
enforcement agencies and raises privacy issues which were of concern to some
The Committee is aware that if inappropriate activity on the Internet
which is designed to entrap children is to be a criminal offence, evidence must
be obtained which will secure a conviction.
The Committee heard that to obtain evidence of paedophile chat room
activity, police need to have the capacity to monitor or intercept the person’s
There are several ways to undertake criminal investigations which
involve the use of information technology.
Searches can be conducted to check information stored on the user’s hard
drive but PricewaterhouseCoopers described a system which uses an Internet
Service Provider’s (ISP) log of those who have surfed the Internet through that
particular ISP. It is possible to trace
both the caller and the called.
However, ISPs are not required to retain their logs for any period of
time. Historically this was because of
the expense and space required to store them; the cost has diminished, and it
appears to be feasible to have ISPs retain records at least for a short
time. While there is no legislative
requirement on ISP to maintain records, there is a draft Code of Practice which
seeks to establish a co-operative working relationship between the Internet
industry and ISPs (see paragraphs 2.66 to 2.68).
Committee heard that there is already a code of conduct for commercial
television, and for Internet service providers.
However, there was a view that self regulation may not be successful in
protecting children effectively from undesirable contact and material. In a submission to the Inquiry, the National
Child Protection Clearing House recommended:
Internet Service Providers should be required to take greater
responsibility for the protection of children by moving from self-regulation to
quasi regulation or explicit government regulation, both of which are common in
other industries in Australia.
submission also states that the (limited) number of websites explored in
compiling the submission suggests that the Australian Internet Industry does
not have a significant presence in addressing child protection issues.
One solution proposed was a system of ISP accreditation which would
require certain levels of operating standards – such as the filtering of
submission to the Inquiry, Mr Julian and Ms Leanne Winch drew the Committee’s
attention to the availability in the United States of a free server-based
filtering system, which customers can choose to activate as soon as they sign
on to the service. The submission notes that some service providers do offer
this option but recommends that free optional server-based filters should be
available, and service providers who fail to offer the filter should be heavily
current arrangements, the Committee is concerned that it appears that self
regulation by the Industry in this area may not be adequate. The Committee is of the view that honouring
the terms of the Code of Practice requires both an acceptance of the code and
the resources to discharge the requirements.
The Committee received a copy of it during the Inquiry. However, it did not receive any evidence from
ISPs. This was despite attempts by the
Committee to speak with some ISPs operating within Australia. The Committee therefore must question the
level of acceptance of the code within the industry.
Notwithstanding the industry’s ability to comply with Law Enforcement
Agencies’ (LEA) requests for records there can be little argument that the
collection of such evidence is critical to prosecution. While it also presents
a useful avenue for detection, the records are not the only avenue.
The AHTCC told the Committee of some of the strategies used abroad. Federal Agent MacGibbon told the Inquiry that
an officer from the AHTCC had been examining procedures in the UK and the US:
The Internet means that
you have hundreds of thousands of potential offenders in these chat rooms, and
you need to know how to filter it down to a reasonable number so that you can
have the level of suspicion or belief about it that lets you do the extra, more
intrusive investigative aspects —how you locate that offender and how you look
at engaging them in the physical world ...
... the [Innocent Images
Program is the] FBI’s main child sex investigations area and which also
maintains a proactive online presence, posing as children online and engaging
people in conversation. 
The Committee notes from the AHTCC’s evidence that it is allocating a
high priority both to the legislative and forensic aspects of this criminal
The NSW Police told the Committee that the American FBI engages covertly
in chat room activity in order to track paedophiles. However, the American experience has been
that there is such a proliferation of paedophile activity in chat rooms, that
the agents have to select which offenders they will target.
In evidence, Mr Gregory Melick observed that:
To randomly try to
pluck something out of the ether and interpret it to see what is going on will
be almost impossible. You also have the other problems of encryption and
The US experience and Mr Melick’s comments suggest that any requirements
placed on ISPs to provide records should be targeted with some knowledge of
illegal behaviour rather than a global search the ISP records. The
responsibility placed on ISPs is therefore reduced and the resource
requirements in searching the material seized is also limited.
Any seizure of the users’ hard drives for evidentiary data could also be
obtained in the context of pre-existing knowledge. For law enforcement agencies to direct a more
'intrusive investigation' to a wide spectrum of users would be a costly
exercise with a doubtful return.
The Committee notes that seizure of suspect computer hard drives and
associated records is already available under Commonwealth and State search
The NSW Police suggested the following possible legislative changes to
assist in the detection and prosecution of paedophiles: 
to the telephone intercept legislation to include child pornography and
to NSW legislation concerning possession and publication of child pornography,
offence (similar to that being contemplated in Britain and discussed in paragraph 3.31), of online
grooming and luring for the purpose of a sexual act.
The Committee notes that the last
of these initiatives in particular has considerable potential for affecting
online chat room activity. However, the problem of Internet paedophilia is an
interstate and national one, as is cybercrime generally, and the legislative
solutions to be most effective must be nationally consistent and if possible,
Further, there was some concern that to extend the LEAs’ powers to
intercept and seize in any way would raise issues of civil liberties and rights
to privacy which currently exist. The
ACC itself acknowledged this in evidence.
In their submission Electronic Frontiers Australia indicated that any
proposal which would increase powers for law enforcement agencies should be
carefully scrutinised. EFA noted that there are already provisions (under the Telecommunications Act 1997) which allow
some law enforcement agencies to make certified and uncertified requests to a
carrier or carriage service provider for disclosure about telecommunications
users. EFA considers that any extension of these
powers would not be justified in the absence of evidence that the measures
would have the intended impact on criminal activity.
Committee did not form the view that an increase in the interception powers of
law enforcement agencies to investigate paedophile activity on the Internet was
warranted but it was concerned that there still is no uniform legislation
governing the collection and use of evidence.
The Commonwealth Evidence Act 1995
was intended to be adopted co-operatively by all states and territories;
however the Commonwealth Act applies only to Commonwealth investigations, and
has been adopted as far as possible in New South Wales and applied to State
investigations. The Committee was
advised that Victoria is examining the proposal.
However, the Committee notes that a report was prepared for the
Victorian Parliament in 1996 recommending adoption of the Commonwealth and NSW
Evidence Act models and it is yet
to be implemented.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Attorney-General
liaises with the State and Territory Attorneys-General to ensure that priority
is given to the development and implementation of consistent offence and
evidence legislation in relation to cybercrime, which is in accordance with
Australia’s international obligations.
The Committee was advised that
there are proposals for legislation at Commonwealth level.  It considers that, given the
international experience of the proliferation of predatory paedophile behaviour
using information technology, the new offence relating to 'online grooming' and
luring of children for the purpose of a sexual act (proposed in the British
legislation) would be a useful addition to the statute books in Australia.
The Committee recommends
that as part of its legislative package to detect and prosecute those who use
information technology for the trade of child pornography, the Government
introduce a new offence relating to luring and grooming children for sexual
Finally, the Committee notes the suggestion by PricewaterhouseCoopers
relating to a keystroke logger. This logger can record every single keystroke,
and thus trace the Internet activity of the user. However, the legality of this device has yet
to be tested and the Committee suggests that the matter warrants further
National register of child sex offenders
clear to the Committee that in the light of the expense involved in this area
of investigation, that resources need to be focused where they will obtain the
most effective results. The Committee
heard that one way this could occur would be in cases:
involving the prosecution of individuals who may have attracted
the attention of law enforcement for other, perhaps unrelated reasons. In the course of investigation the evidence
of other illicit materials has been found on their computer, perhaps leading to
a trail of other offenders with whom that other individual may have been in contact.
Committee considers that a national register of Child Sex Offenders would be
useful in this process. The Committee is
aware that the NSW Government has a database of child sex offenders which
includes their names, addresses, employment and car registration details. The register is not public but is available
to law enforcement agencies. Recently a
meeting of Australian Police Ministers agreed to the establishment of a similar
national database. The register will
also allow Australia to endorse international child protection agreements.
The Committee was aware that the
development of a national database could result in a number of situations
having the potential for unintended consequences: for example, where somebody
appears on the register because they were convicted under age of consent laws,
rather than arguably more serious, and/or aggravated sex offences. However, the Committee, having discussed
the matter with officers from the Attorney-General’s Department, is confident
that sufficient safeguards and redress would be included in any such register,
particularly for those who might find themselves in that position.
The Committee notes that in relation to paedophiles, and
children’s access to unsuitable material on the Internet there are initiatives
which focus on prevention and protection.
The international experience suggests that information technology has
been readily adopted by those who are involved in both the purveying of child
pornography and the pursuit of children for sexual purposes. To assist in the detection and prosecution of
these offences in Australia, the Committee
has made a number of recommendations in relation to this aspect of the
inquiry. However, the Committee believes that the most significant role for
the ACC is in intelligence collection; the problem is, by its nature,
international and subject to the vagaries and priorities of the law of other
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