MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - World powers vowed on Thursday to increase efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children by Internet pornographers but said governments alone could not stamp out the Web crime.
After their first working session in Munich, ministers from current Group of Eight countries Germany, the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia called on the private sector for help.
“Entities including Internet Service Providers, information technology professionals and financial institutions ... the media, parents and educators, should be encouraged to consider what role they could play in the fight,” said a statement from G8 interior and justice ministers.
Germany recently smashed a child pornography ring thanks to credit card data provided by financial institutions and credit card companies.
German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said the case of Madeleine McCann, a 4-year-old British girl who disappeared earlier this month in Portugal, illustrated the need for increased international cooperation.
“We simply have to assume that this was done by a gang that passes on these children to be exploited, and Russia as well mentioned the danger ... that such children may be abducted for adoption later on,” she told reporters.
Investigators fear McCann may have been spirited out of Portugal.
The G8 has been working with Interpol for years to combat child pornography and helped it establish the International Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database, which is intended to help police identify and rescue victims of such abuse.
The ministers were briefed by the head of Interpol on its activities.
In an interview with Reuters, Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said its database now contains more than half a million images of children being sexually exploited and has helped secure the rescue of over 500 children worldwide.
Noble showed Reuters a number of database photos, all of which showed Caucasian adult males engaged in sex acts with Asian boys, activities that would be clearly illegal.
This reflects the majority of cases in which U.S. or European males travel to countries like Thailand or Cambodia where they sexually exploit poor children, Noble said.
Because child pornographers often distort the faces of the adults so they cannot be identified, Interpol has developed software to enable identification of the crime scenes, he said.
“One case we are working on right now involves a Norwegian,” he said. “(Norwegian police) raided a house, downloaded the material on the computer and found the images of a man sexually abusing a child.”
Interpol software analyzed the scene and matched up at least one other image, giving authorities a lead, he said.
Kristin Kvigne, assistant director of Interpol’s human trafficking division, said the number of such sex offenders traveling around the world at the moment was probably “in the thousands”.