Magnet Forensics President, David Miles, recently spoke with the Child Rescue Coalition’s Founder and CEO, Carly Yoost, about the organization’s work to support law enforcement in rescuing children and apprehending child abusers. The Child Rescue Coalition (CRC) is a nonprofit organization that rescues children from sexual abuse by building technology for law enforcement, free of charge, to track, arrest, and prosecute child predators. The Child Rescue Coalition’s mission is “Protecting Innocence Through Technology” and their technology is directly linked with the rescue of almost 3,000 children from abusive situations and more than 12,500 arrests. Here is some of their conversation:
David: Please talk to me about the Child Rescue Coalition and its mission.
Carly: Tragically, the expansion of the internet brought forth an explosion of the child sexual abuse material market. After our founding in 2013, we developed the Child Protection System, technology which has been a powerful tool for law enforcement agencies around the globe. The technology has improved the success rates of investigators and policing operations in the ongoing, and incredibly important pursuit to identify, apprehend, and convict individuals and networks associated with child sexual exploitation. In fact, our technology has been one of the tools law enforcement has used in the arrest of nearly 1,700 child sex predators across the United States.
David: What is the extent of criminal behavior connected to child sexual abuse material shared online?
Carly: Child sexual abuse material that is stored on a computer or shared online represents a violent criminal act of sexual abuse and is just as vicious as having manufactured it in the first place. Studies show that up to 85% of those who view child sexual abuse material are also hands-on abusers. The internet has also moved the problem offline to the real world, creating a deplorable secondary after-effect where sex offenders use the internet to stalk children and trade tips on how to lure children into sexual encounters. With this information, these victims are sexually assaulted to produce this material and then exploited every time these images are shared over the internet. The proliferation of internet technology permits this sharing to take place at a larger scale, increasing both the number and egregiousness of offenses.
David: Please share how the expansion of the internet and proliferation of digital technologies has affected the circulation of child sexual abuse material.
Carly: Today, child predators have virtually unlimited access to child sexual abuse material due to the easy, anonymous, and on-demand availability of these illicit graphic images and videos of child victims. Virtually every internet technology today can circulate images and videos depicting real child sexual abuse, and are easily accessible. Child sex abuse criminals and their inhumane content live on the same social media networks, applications, and digital infrastructure we all use. Predators connect with each other online to share their interests, desires, and experiences, abusing children, in addition to selling, sharing, and trading images of their abuse. Unfortunately, we also know that the pandemic environment has led to more abusers trying to lure and groom kids online.
David: Your technology, the Child Protection System, obtains millions of daily reports of online users trading sexual abuse material, which is truly impactful data for law enforcement agencies. Please share how your technology works.
Carly: Our Child Protection System technology, what we also refer to as CPS, provides the most comprehensive view of where child predators around the world are downloading and sharing explicit content online. CPS technology works by monitoring peer-to-peer file sharing networks in real-time. As you mentioned, our technology indexes 30 to 50 million reports of online users trading child sexual abuse material every day. This information allows Child Rescue Coalition to index these records and make the information available, via a “dashboard” they can access after training, to law enforcement. We identify the unique IP addresses sharing and downloading sexually explicit images and videos of children. Since our inception, we have ascertained 71 million unique IP addresses. While there is certainly a heightened attention on platforms with direct child interaction, our data can work with any organization. It simply needs to have an online presence and be actively logging activity on their servers for their users with IP addresses and a time and date stamp.
David: What critical data does the Child Protection System technology extract that law enforcement otherwise would not have access to?
Carly: Our system was actually started by some cops with computer skills! Once the amount of data became unmanageable for a small police agency it was brought across to Florida by my Dad’s company; he provided free data engineers to make it scalable. Crucially, a large federal agency can have free access the same way a small agency with no budget considerations required. When Dad passed away the nonprofit was born with the goal of always making the technology free to law enforcement. We constantly collaborate with child exploitation investigators, police officers and digital forensic experts to target and apprehend abusers, rescuing children in real time. Our technology specifically works by monitoring the areas of the internet where predators lurk. Using our technology, law enforcement officials across the globe track and apprehend dangerous predators who are downloading and trading child sexual abuse material. Our team gathers and analyzes this data and presents it to law enforcement, free of charge, to help them protect children by tracking, arresting, and prosecuting child predators worldwide—often without having to put children through the trauma of testifying in court.
David: What other measures are you undertaking to ensure public safety in this amplified digital environment?
Carly: We are vigilant in our cataloguing, monitoring, and sharing of where child predators are downloading and sharing explicit content online. Internet safety practices are the first line of defense against child sexual exploitation. To help shield our children from online exploitation and predator methodologies, the Child Rescue Coalition has expanded training for parents and adolescents on internet safety practices. We have given educational presentations to more than hundreds of families. Though our children’s safety online is not guaranteed, it can be managed and monitored by knowing how predators target and approach children through the internet. We have expanded our library of internet safety tips for children and parents through educational works authored by officers with direct experience, software providers, licensed psychologists and more. The educational resources we provide to parents and children have proven to be a crucial component in the fight against child sexual exploitation and can often mean the difference in a child’s life. Moreover, every year, we team up with local businesses and volunteers at our Blankets and Bear Hugs events to assemble comforting care packages for children rescued from frightening sexual abuse situations. We have assembled over 3,000 care packages and donated them to local law enforcement and rape crisis centers to distribute to rescued children.
David: How can companies like Magnet Forensics further support Child Rescue Coalition?
Carly: Magnet and CRC’s partnership underscores the multi-stakeholder response needed to address the global fight on child sexual exploitation. The proliferation of internet networks and the abundance of explicit, unmonitored content puts our loved ones at risk of sexual predators. Restorative, innovative solutions are needed to mitigate the pervasiveness of child sexual abuse materials and at Child Rescue Coalition, we recognize those solutions stem from a number of influencers and problem solvers. Child Rescue Coalition is a nonprofit organization so we rely on donors to help enhance our technological developments, increase law enforcement training and rescue thousands of children from sexual exploitation and abuse.
David: What’s next for the Child Rescue Coalition?
Carly: It is critical we remain a voice for the voiceless and advocate for child safety. We continue to develop new technologies that enable swifter identification of child sexual abusers and their explicit material. Neula, our forensic technology, allows investigators to locate and recover explicit content on digital devices after they have been deleted. With Neula, investigators can retrieve child sexual abuse material in a way not previously possible anywhere else in the world. Ultimately, this technology provides better insight into the true extent of an individual’s criminal behavior, which greatly enhances law enforcement’s ability to prosecute and convict child sexual abusers. We’re also developing brand new investigative technology to combat the horrific live streaming abuse of children and the rising threat of abuse involving “apps”. Our work is not complete until children are safe and sound from the grasp of sexual predators—there is still so much to do!