International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Australia Ltd


Following the financial footprint of technology-facilitated CSE

October 17, 2023

Tackling society’s most wicked problems is something that concerns many business leaders. And there are few more wicked than the online sexual exploitation of children. Offenders hide in the depths of the dark web – as well as the clear web – and sell, purchase, and trade illicit child sexual abuse material. Each image and video is a crime scene, and harms an innocent child.

When child sexual exploitation is facilitated online, it adds another level of difficulty to the detection of this crime, which offenders aim to capitalise in their ruthless attempts to harm and abuse children. But, contrary to common perception, this crime is not undetectable, creating many traceable digital footprints – including within financial systems. 

Finding ways to connect these digital footprints is essential to identifying perpetrators, and makes cross-industry collaboration a key weapon in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Financial institutions play a vital role in responding to this crime, not only by collaborating with other key industries like law enforcement, government, regulators, and not-for-profits, but within their own organisation across various teams. Whilst technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation is a responsibility for financial crimes teams, ensuring that financial institutions meet their regulatory obligations, it’s also a prominent human rights concern that should be embedded in an ESG team’s priorities. 

In today’s digital age, where technology facilitates both progress and peril, there is an expectation and a responsibility for financial institutions to ensure the safety of their customers of all ages. As offenders are relentless in their attempts to reach children, and the capabilities of the online world diversify, financial institutions play a pivotal role in safeguarding our society’s most vulnerable from abuse and exploitation. 

This crime has many touch points across various industries, which means the response must be all-encompassing. No one organisation can do this alone. And the pivotal role of financial institutions in ‘following the money’ can significantly shift the needle in identifying perpetrators and locating their victims.

Whilst financial institution analysts employ sophisticated methods in detecting CSE-related transactions within their systems, their almost innocuous nature can make it like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. And the ever-evolving perpetrator tactics means that continual training and the adoption of new tools are necessary aspects of this work. Employing the regulated techniques and taking a proactive approach to detecting this crime can both mitigate the risk to an institution, and help law enforcement save more children from harm.

But a comprehensive response to online child sexual exploitation must involve teams from all corners of a financial institution – from financial crimes to risk mitigation, human rights & ESG to corporate affairs. When all these teams incorporate the detection, reporting and prevention of CSE into their work, it can contribute to a financial institution’s overall positive social impact. By elevating awareness across the whole organisation it can inspire teams to find sustainable, meaningful solutions across the board that can lead to the detection and ultimately the prevention of this heinous crime. This is where inter- and intra-organisation collaborative approaches are critical.

Collaboration is the backbone to fighting against child sexual exploitation. Financial institutions work closely with law enforcement, government, regulators, and NGOs to efficiently and effectively identify evidence of child sexual exploitation. These partnerships form a strong network of industries committed to protecting children and prosecuting offenders. Creating an expanded organisational focus on CSE can lead to even better partnerships outside of the organisation, and ultimately yield better outcomes for children. 

At ICMEC Australia, we understand that collaboration amplifies our ability to enhance the detection, reporting, prosecution, and prevention of child sexual exploitation. We exist to help our stakeholders engaged in child protection to increase their capacity to detect CSE and collaborate with one another to prevent this heinous crime. 

Our upcoming Financial Symposium is taking place on Wednesday 25th October, and will bring together leaders from all facets of financial institutions who all have a role to play in fighting this crime. An exclusive event for financial institutions, the Symposium will include a comprehensive program where experts in the CSE response ecosystem will share their key insights for financial services organisations to bolster their capabilities to detect and report CSE transactions. 

With collaboration being so important to the success of combating this crime, this will be the perfect opportunity to forge key industry connections and partner to save children from abuse and exploitation.

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