The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is planning to work with bitcoin companies to combat the use of digital currency to pay for online child sexual abuse material.
Despite being unable to disclose specifics, Emma Hardy, director of external relations at the IWF, confirmed conversations with bitcoin exchanges were in the “early stages”.
“We noted the use of cryptocurrencies in the first quarter of 2014, and specifically the use of bitcoin to pay for child sexual abuse imagery. We know, from our experience, that new services and technologies will always be abused by criminals for their own agendas and we’re really open to working with anyone who seeks to keep their services, networks and exchanges free from criminality.”
The announcement follows the publication of IWF’s annual report, which noted bitcoin was being increasingly used by paedophiles to purchase sexually abusive imagery featuring children on the open web.
In its report, the IWF said it received 37 reports of child sexual abuse websites accepting bitcoin between January and April last year. The illicit websites, which appeared as separate folders on legitimate websites, were distributed via spam emails following a hack.
Bitcoin as a criminal tool
The news comes amid the publication of various Europol reports which noted that bitcoin was increasingly being used by criminals.
A study, produced by Europol’s EC3 cybercrime centre in February this year, shed new light on the commercial sexual exploitation of children online, while providing evidence that individuals with a sexual interest in children were becoming more entrepreneurial.
In March, Europol released an additional report which said digital currencies were increasingly serving as a money laundering platform for “freelance criminal entrepreneurs operating on a crime-as-a-service business model”.
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