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Parliament of Australia – Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry – Law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation

posted on 2021-09-06, 00:00 authored by Ian WarrenIan Warren, Clare Allely, Sally KennedySally Kennedy
The authors write this submission to the Australian Parliament and Joint Committee on Law Enforcement concerning the inquiry titled ‘Law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation’ as interested individuals with relevant expertise in understanding the hazards of criminal enforcement on particularly vulnerable groups, such as those who experience autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other problematic conditions. Our research marries this knowledge with a detailed understanding of the enhanced push for transnational information sharing to deal with the online production and use of child exploitation material (CEM), and the problematic aspects of enforcing national criminal laws through vague, ambiguous or intrusive transnational legal processes. In line with several inquiries in recent times, the emphasis should be on enhanced regulation of digital platforms to moderate the distribution of CEM through the open web system. This is in line with the need for enhanced regulation and enforcement of content rules identified by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its digital platforms inquiry (2019, see especially Recommendation 6 dealing with the need for enhanced regulation, Recommendation 8 dealing with mandatory independent takedown by the Australian Media and Communications Authority to enhance copyright enforcement; and Recommendation 12 relating to improving digital literacy in the community). Our view proposes that by placing greater emphasis on platform regulation to restrict the distribution of CEM on the open web, more targeted enforcement can be undertaken to restrict production and distribution through other sources, such as the dark web which represent more insidious threats to potential victims of child abuse. Much like the area of illicit drug supply, this approach aims to target producers and distributors of CEM, because, as we demonstrate in this submission, the criminalisation of possession and viewing of CEM has highly problematic impacts for those with autism spectrum disorders, who are not necessarily capable of discerning their actions are unlawful.






Research statement

Submission based on terms of reference to public inquiry recommending greater policing of child exploitation on the open web.

Publication classification

A6 Research report/technical paper


Commonwealth of Australia

Place of publication

Canberra, A.C.T.


Submissions received by the Committee