Reece Kershaw issued a call to action as he warned about an extremely high number of sick paedophiles using technology to steal children’s innocence and “ruin their lives”.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the Australian Federal Police Commissioner said it was time Australians paid more attention and joined the fight against child exploitation.
“No one saved their kids by covering their ears or eyes,” Mr Kershaw said.
“We need parents and caregivers to understand how their children are being targeted and how technology invites strangers into their kids’ bedrooms.
“We need you to upskill to learn and understand what your kids do on the internet. We need you to learn how social media services and platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat work.”
He also took aim at Facebook, saying its move to end-to-end encryption was making it harder for police to catch predators.
“As a country we need to be more outraged about those who produce and distribute child exploitation material,” Mr Kershaw said.
“To those who argue that moving towards end-to-end encryption is the privacy they need and deserve, I challenge you to explain that to a child who has been tortured, exploited and repeatedly for the gratification of others; explain to that victim that they may never get justice because technology has been designed to keep the identity of their monster a secret.”
Coronavirus has heightened the scourge in Australia. So far this year, more than 60 child exploitation cases a day are being reported to the AFP.
Some victims being saved were too young to walk, Mr Kershaw said.
“This crime type is getting worse,” he said.
“In the early-to-mid 2000s, a child sex predator had about 1000 images, now it’s between 10,000 to 80,000 images and videos.
“The internet and those devices that connect us all have become a blessing and a curse.”
Mr Kershaw revealed a priority for the force was targeting extremist and terrorist groups that seek to take advantage of isolation, loneliness and financial stress to boost their numbers.
He also raised concerns about cyber threats increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and impact through emerging artificial intelligence technologies and 5G networks.
But Mr Kershaw had a message to Australians who have lost their jobs during the pandemic – consider a job with the AFP.
“If you want to stop terrorists who seek to act out their twisted ideology, stop foreign interference or strip the invisibility cloak from the predators who hunt our children online, please heed the call to action,” he said.
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