Tanzania launches portal to curb child sexual abuse


Internet users across Tanzania and Zanzibar will from now on have the opportunity to safely and anonymously report any disgraceful imagery of child sexual abuse through a dedicated online portal.

The new initiative launched Tuesday is part of the global efforts pioneered by the U.K.-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to protect victims of child sexual abuse from suffering emotional distress when horrific imagery is shared online.

IWF is an international charity working with the leaders of the global Internet industry to help make the web a safe place for Internet customers. Through its team of experts, the organization has helped thousands of victims of child sexual abuse worldwide by identifying and removing online images and videos of their abuse.

This innovative project, supported by the Tanzania Police Force and other global partners, allows web users wherever they are to report images or videos of child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is a huge problem in Tanzania affecting hundreds of victims, officials said.

Susie Hargreaves, IWF Chief Executive Officer said in a statement that having an online reporting portal would give Tanzanians the confidence to report horrific images without fear.

"We want the web users of Tanzania to be protected from stumbling across these disturbing images. However, if they do, we want them to know there is a safe and trusted place where they can report what they have seen," she said.

"We know from our work that just one report can help us remove one, or even a thousand illegal images. Sometimes, just one report is all it takes to identify and rescue a child from sexual abuse."

According to data from Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) there are 20 million Internet users in Tanzania - about 40 percent of the country's population of 50 million.

Although the number seems small in comparison, analysts say the rate of Internet usage in the east African country is rapidly increasing as more people get access to smartphones.

Government statistics suggest there has been an increase in Internet usage in Tanzania from 12 percent in 2011 to 40 percent last year.

According to IWF, if someone stumbles across an online image of a child being sexually abused, the portal enables them to pass on the information to a specially trained analyst working with the IWF Hotline. The analyst can then assess and take action on any illegal content within seconds.

If the image or video is illegal, the analyst will use a global network of partners to get the content taken down, the organization said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Thelma Dhaje, C-Sema National Child Helpline Manager said the global initiative would have a positive impact on the development of the Internet in Tanzania and in the long term help protecting children.

Dhaje said although some victims of child sexual abuse might not be able to report when such horrific images are put online, anybody in Tanzania could report such illegal content regardless where it is hosted.

"Through IWF's global network of Internet service providers and law enforcers, the portal has the potential of helping children of all backgrounds both in and out of Tanzania," Dhaje said, adding their aim was to protect children who have been victims of sexual abuse from further abuse by online pedophiles and to make internet a safe place.

According to Dhaje, in 89 out of every 100 case of child sexual abuse content reported through IWF globally, the victims are girls, suggesting that female gender is more vulnerable to such attacks.

Speaking with Anadolu Agency, Lazaro Mambosasa, Dar es Salaam special zone police commander, said the portal would help the police's cybercrime unit gather evidence which would support investigations against those accused of child sexual abuse.

"We are very proud to be associated with this initiative which I believe will help the nation deal with the rising wave of moral decay," he said.

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