An international police taskforce has launched a website where children can report possible online paedophile activity. The site's logo will appear on AOL BT, Vodafone and Microsoft websites, providing a hotlink to the home page of Virtual Global Taskforce.
Virtual Global Taskforce aims to make the internet a safer place for children and a more hostile place for paedophiles. It is the result of international collaboration between the National Crime Squad and its counterparts in Canada, the US and Australia.
Children who are worried that they might be chatting online with a paedophile, or that they are being tricked into a meeting, can use the site to learn how to get the person's IP address and user name.
They can also use the site to record the details of any conversations with the suspected paedophile, which can be used as evidence if authorities decide to prosecute. The information can also be used to warn offenders.
The site contains links to other sources of information on online abuse, and child safety agencies.
Jim Gamble, deputy director general of the National Crime Squad, said that clicking on the logo was like walking through the police station door. He is quoted in The Daily Mail as saying:
"If you are a child online, and you are approached by someone in a chatroom, you now have access to law enforcement. It is a reminder that the internet is no longer anonymous. For potential offenders, this is the equivalent of a speed camera, telling them to slow down, and think again."
But what is to stop someon making malicious allegations against a person who is entirely innocent?
"We are aware that it could be abused, but then anyone can walk into a police station and make allegations," said a spokeswoman for the NCS. "We have very thorough checking procedures. We look at what is given, how it is collated. Nothing is acted upon until it is investigated by the proper authorities, until the police are involved."
The taskforce explained that the ultimate goal is to have a 24 hour online presence so that any child online who felt threatened will have someone to talk to. The police also outlined proposals to seize the credit cards of anyone found to be using one to access child pornography online.
The contact section of the site is yet to go live but the NCS says it expects it to be up and running in the next couple of days.®