Abuse in NRW: ‘It means you can save children and convict perpetrators’

Globalism: Why are so many cases of abuse revealed in North Rhine-Westphalia?

Thomas Gabriel Rudiger: It is difficult to evaluate this objectively from the outside. However, my guess is that North Rhine-Westphalia is simply investing significantly more resources in illuminating the dark field. This can also mean that the uncovered case leads to contact with other offenders, but also with groups of offenders, which can lead to more and more cases. In my view, the fact that crime complexes are discovered over and over again reveals that this strategy works and is correct. Because this means that you can save the children in every case and convict the perpetrators. Many cases may also have a national or even international connection if the perpetrators or victims are from other federal states or countries.

Globalism: So more cops means more crime detection?

Rudiger: The fact that the concentration and diversion of resources to crime areas leads not to fewer reports but to more facts being revealed is also described in criminology as the so-called “Lüchow-Dannenberg syndrome”. This means that if the police presence increases, more crimes will be reported and eventually uncovered.

Globalism: Despite this, officials often complain that they lack the technical means to detect online child abuse. Where do you think the greatest dangers lie?

Rudiger: First of all, you need to make a distinction here, because under the “child abuse” in the digital space, a variety of phenomena and perpetrators can be recorded. Online grooming—that is, the online initiation of sexual violence against children—must be approached differently from dark web crime structures or those that are primarily active in the immediate social sphere, but also produce and share media. Many acts of violence in the immediate social sphere seem to result in media production, which means that the digital component will also be present here.

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Globalism: How is these types of abuse dealt with?

Rudiger: For example, online grooming can be countered by interrogators who pretend to be children on social media and online games and allow themselves to handle it digitally. In the field of Darknet crimes, on the other hand, attempts are being made to gain access to criminal structures, which is why the legislator gave the security authorities the opportunity to create “mock images of abuse” themselves in order to achieve the following – called “chastity tests”. This means that the undercover investigator produces purported materials himself in order to gain access to criminal groups.

Globalism: This is a great toolkit. So what is still missing?

Rudiger: In my opinion, investigative tools are not necessarily missing. Because here, too, you can achieve a lot with classic investigative work. But you need a lot of staff for that. The problem is rather the mass and sheer size of the field. In the digital space, we are not only talking about German suspects and victims, but about those who could be active from all over the world. At the same time, only one perpetrator can have terabytes of data and media, all of which may be relevant, because new child victims can always be found on the media. In my opinion, it will not work here anymore without the analysis and evaluation mechanisms controlled by AI. However, one problem here is that the police have to investigate every initial suspicion themselves, otherwise the police officer may be liable to prosecution. This may mean that eventually many media will have to be displayed manually again.

Globalism: They are clamoring for more first-class preemptive offerings onwards.

Rudiger: In my opinion, there is not enough discussion about criminal policy about the fact that in this year’s police crime statistics, for the first time, the majority of suspects who were evident due to so-called “child pornography” online were themselves children and young adults. In general, the significant increase in this type of crime discussed in the media also appears to be attributed to this age group.

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Author image Constantin van Lijnden - WORLD

Globalism: How is this and what can be done about it?

Rudiger: Here are three primary ways this can happen. Minors deliberately search for such material and share it in a chat group and are caught in the process. Or the minors themselves are in a chat group, someone posts the relevant material in the group, and then the group members unintentionally put it on their smartphones, which in turn can raise the initial suspicion of criminal offences. Or, a 14-year-old girl and her 13-year-old boyfriend engage in consensual sexting, and a 13-year-old sends nude pictures of herself. So it could actually be “child pornography” The 14-year-old is represented and punished and will eventually be incriminated. Incidentally, this is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical about the planned chat control in the EU in its current form.

Globalism: why?

Rudiger: The real culprits, which we as a society have to deal with, will find ways other than communicating through the messenger. However, minors, who may not be aware of their criminal responsibility in this area, will often be found guilty when in doubt. Thus, minors also face the most serious criminal charge, which is a felony. It is difficult to assess the impact that will occur in the future.

Globalism: If criminal law doesn’t work, then what?

Rudiger: In my opinion, it requires education and awareness. Nowadays, some children are given a first grade smartphone, as they become part of a global digital communication space. Parents are not always able or willing to prepare children for the risks and challenges that come with it. There is only one institution where all children can be equally educated. This is the school. So when we practice media education – also in the sense of “what you are and aren’t allowed to do” – we are also actively preventing crime. I think this is way better than criminal charges, at least as far as the suspects’ minors are concerned. Therefore, I wish to make media proficiency mandatory from first grade in every school in Germany. Here I would like to have a common concept of education and local politics, which also includes training and additional education for teachers or financial resources for appropriate media teachers. But it is important that media competence from primary school in 2022 is unfortunately still a wish in every school in Germany.

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Source: AFP, AFP / AFP / Saul Loeb

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