The recent dismantling of a Colombia based child pornography ring has shone a spotlight on a felonious industry, as civilian groups and law enforcement collaborate to bring perpetrators to justice.

Since the beginning of 2013, at least 64 cases of child pornography have been reported to officials, according to Colonel Freddy Bautista Garcia, head of the National Police’s internet crime division and member of Interpol’s Latin American Working Party on Information technology Crime (LAWPITC).

Law enforcement officials rely on civilian activist groups such as “Te Protejo” to process reports and take action. Te Protejo analyzes flagged videos, photos and other media for evidence of illegal content and abuse of minors. After they report their findings to the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication, investigation and prosecution is left to the authorities. Though it relies on the haphazard and potentially unreliable information of the citizenry, the process has achieved results: 19 individuals were arrested for child pornography in 2012.

“Red Papaz”, an organization of concerned parents, has sought to organize public and private forces to dismantle illegal pornography networks. For example, Escudos del Alma (“Shields of the Soul”), created by Red Papaz, on Thursday held a conference attended by representatives of law enforcement and technological oversight groups, as well as psychologists and students to discuss the problem.

The Colombian Chamber of Information and Telecommunications (CCIT) is an organization that represents the major communications providers in the country. The CCIT helps with the technological aspects of the campaign to find and dismantle, or block, websites with criminal content.

“What we are doing is helping to carry out the law which enforces the filtration and blockage of child pornography content, and we work together with the Colombian hotline for reports, Te Protejo,” Hector Tamayo, an engineering coordinator for the CCIT, told Colombia Reports. “Some of the sites that the police have found…are already blocked, but it is unrealistic to say that all of them are blocked,” Tamayo added.

The demise of an international child pornography racket, which police uncovered last month in Bogota, centered on the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl on March 6. Reportedly, an anoymous informant tipped off police that the girl may have fallen prey to a pornography ring. Using the girl’s social media accounts, detectives found evidence of a chatroom encounter in which pornographers contacted the victim, enticed her with offers of a salary and modelling opportunities, thus deceiving her of their nefarious intentions.

Police established that the victim went to an apartment in Barrio Prado Veraniego, in the north of the capital for a casting call. Upon arriving at the location, the girl was stripped of her cell phone, forbidden to leave, and, in the following days, forced to perform unspecified activities in front of a webcam for international clients.

After obtaining a search warrant, police raided the location. Amid a cache of pornographic material, authorities found and arrested Andres Camilo Gomez, one of the leaders of the child pornography ring. In addition, authorities rescued two underage girls who had been held captive on the premises, and who were subsequently transferred into the custody of the Colombian Institute of Family Wellbeing (ICBF).

Along with other authorities, the ICBF is responsible for “implementing actions of public awareness of the problem of… pornography and sexual abuse of minors,” according to Law 679 of 2001.

Source: Colombia Reports

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