The ELIPSIA network, an international police cooperation initiative, is promoting an awareness and communication campaign focusing on the online sexual abuse of minors. Both the network, since its inception, and the now the campaign are supported by the European EL PAcCTO cooperation programme.
Through this campaign, 11 countries in Europe and Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal and Uruguay) and their respective police forces have joined forces for the first time to confront the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors on the internet. As a new development, the campaign includes a direct focus on the potential victims of the crime (young people in Europe and Latin America aged eight to 17), which is evident in the campaign approach and products, although it is also aimed at their close family and immediate friends.
This awareness-raising therefore seeks to draw attention to and increase people’s knowledge related to grooming among those who may be affected by the crime, using this knowledge for prevention and response. The aim of the campaign is also to provide useful, proactive orientation, including a “call to action” dimension which will serve to stimulate the gathering of possible reports relating to the crime in all participating countries.
In addition to the European and Latin American press and police representatives from the 11 countries that make up the campaign, various European and Latin American authorities have participated in its launch. Antonio Labrador, Team Leader for the Fight against the Sexual Abuse of Minors at the European Commission General Directorate of Migration and the Interior said “the prevention of harassment on social media is essential to identifying long-term solutions to this problem.” FIIAPP Communication Manager Alicia García stressed that “the message is clear: we must put filters in the minds of girls and boys so they are aware that sexual predators can hide behind apparently innocent users”. The role of international cooperation has been emphasised by Chief Commissioner Alejandro Ñamadu, the Argentinian Federal Police Federal Investigation Superintendent, who says “the integrity of our children and adolescents should know no borders”. Finally, Commissioner Sandra Moreno, Executive Secretary of the Elipsia Network and head of the Argentinian Federal Police Cyber Crimes against Children and Adolescents Division referred to the campaign to highlight the fact that through it “tools are being provided to the most vulnerable community – children and adolescents”.
The idea is to present a “new” filter, Unmaskpro, which is not installed on the phone, but in the heads of each young network user and that does not modify colours or formats, but consists of knowing how to unmask the attackers who are hiding behind an apparently innocent identity. This will be predominantly online, the preferred form of communication for the target audience (young people aged between eight and 17), will last for around two weeks and will consist of several elements:
- A website where all the information for journalists, potential victims and their families will appear: tips and advice on how to prevent crime, ways to communicate with the various police institutions, press kits, campaign pieces etc.
- Audio-visual products, with a fresh, relaxed approach (some even with formats adapted to the most youthful social media, such as TikTok and Instagram), which will be shared from the different social media that the police from the participating countries use. All the shared messages will link to the campaign website.
- Accounts created by the campaign for different social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok) onto which the various pieces will be uploaded and which will serve to promote and foster public debate on the campaign theme.
We expect to be joined by a number of Latin American influencers, especially on the Twitch platform.
Grooming and sexual harassment on the internet
Grooming is the deliberate action by an adult man or woman to sexually harass a child or adolescent through a digital medium that allows interaction between two or more people, such as social media, email, texting, chat and online games.
Adults who groom young people online usually generate one or more false profiles, posing as a child or teenager, seeking to generate a trusting relationship or friendship with the minor they want to abuse.
According to UNICEF, one in three internet users is a child, while 80% of young people believe they are in danger of experiencing sexual harassment online. In addition, UNICEF also believe that when threats occur on the Internet, adolescents turn more to friends than to parents, teachers or the police, despite the fact that less than half believe they know how to help a friend in the face of such a risk. Regarding the wider context, 68.3% of the adults surveyed by ESET Latin America feel that grooming is a very common threat.
The ELIPSIA network and EL PAcCTO
ELIPSIA is the Spanish acronym for the Europe-Latin America Initiative for the Safety of Children and Adolescents. It is an international police cooperation initiative to protect children and adolescents from sexual abuse on the internet that emerged within EL PAcCTO in response to the demand from some Latin American countries participating in the programme.
This police network, currently led by Argentina, seeks to strengthen the international fight against crimes related to online sexual exploitation by consolidating joint work between Europe and Latin America in this regard to jointly prosecute those who perpetrate this crime.
The ELIPSIA network comprises 13 Latin American countries (Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile) and seven European countries (Portugal, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Hungary), as well as Europol and Interpol.
EL PAcCTO (Europe-Latin America Assistance Programme against Transnational Organised Crime) is an international cooperation programme funded by the European Union that seeks to contribute to security and justice in Latin America by supporting the fight against transnational organised crime. EL PAcCTO’s operations address the entire criminal justice system from a comprehensive perspective, through its work in three components: police, justice and penitentiary.
The programme is coordinated by two institutions that specialise in cooperation programme management: FIIAPP (Spain) and Expertise France (France), in association with two European partners: IILA from Italy and Camões from Portugal.