The evolution of the digital age has brought new challenges in the fight against online child sexual exploitation (OCSE). Digital currencies, mobile technology, cloud computing and the dark web make it easier for criminals producing and sharing child sexual abuse materials to avoid the law.
Re-victimization occurs as re-sharing and re-viewing take place multiple times. Another challenge is that the shameful and criminal nature of sexual exploitation limits conversation and hampers policy change.
To better understand the implications of this new era, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), a network of 90 organizations in 82 countries dedicated to ending all forms of sexual exploitation of children, has embarked on the ambitious task of carrying out the first global study on substantive and procedural law related to OCSE in 92 countries.
White & Case is working with ECPAT to conduct this research on a pro bono basis. The effort, entitled Global Study of Laws Relating to Sexual Exploitation of Children Online, will provide an accurate assessment of the state of the law around the world, highlight best practices and identify legislative gaps across multiple jurisdictions.
Ultimately, I believe White & Case's involvement with these projects leads to better law and more robust protection of children.
Head of Program, Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children Online
End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT)
In 17 White & Case offices around the world, partners and associates leapt at the opportunity to conduct research that would support the fight against OCSE by strengthening legislation and giving law enforcement the ability to prosecute.
At the time this project was getting started, the pro bono team was in discussions with the Firm's client, Goldman Sachs, about collaborating on pro bono work. This was the project selected, with great enthusiasm.
Goldman Sachs had a similarly strong response to its request for volunteers: More than 30 Goldman Sachs volunteers partnered with our lawyers on more than 20 country surveys.
New York partner Kevin McGann supervised the research done by US associates. "We were pleased that ECPAT turned to White & Case for help on this complex and worthy cause to combat the exploitation of children. A number of great folks at both White & Case and Goldman Sachs dug into complex issues that arise when lawmakers try to maximize the protection of children in light of technology advances and existing laws in areas such as privacy and freedom of expression. This was a rewarding project for a good cause."
The study will inform policymakers and legislators, law enforcement agencies, a range of regional and sub-regional child safety networks, regional economic commissions, NGOs and others. The findings will be accessible via an open repository—providing a valuable tool for researchers, academics, journalists and concerned citizens.
ECPAT will share the study with child-focused regional mechanisms such as the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, as well as international organizations such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
ECPAT will itself use the findings to inform advocacy papers and expert advice it gives on a regional and global basis. And ECPAT member organizations will gain appropriate context from which to position their implementation initiatives.
White & Case's wide geographical reach, local legal knowledge and language skills are essential to success on such a large undertaking. The Firm also has a great deal of experience in managing complex pro bono projects like this one.
In parallel with the global review, five lawyers from the White & Case Paris office are assisting ECPAT with its Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism. The team researched the balance between offenders' right to privacy while traveling and children's right to protection. It then reviewed an ECPAT legal memo that provides advice on which legal systems strike the best balance that will inform international recommendations when the report is published.
"The reputation of the Firm together with the quality and the dedication of White & Case's lawyers gives ECPAT International and its donors comfort that the outcome will be of the highest quality possible," said Marie-Laure Lemineur, Head of Program, Combating Sexual Exploitation of Children Online at ECPAT. "Ultimately, I believe White & Case's involvement with these projects leads to better law and more robust protection of children."