Remarks by AIT Acting Director W. Brent Christensen at ECPAT International Conference

American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Logo

Chinese Culture University, Taipei
September 3, 2013

AIT Official Text #: OT-1311
(As Prepared for Delivery)


“Creating a National Strategy to Combat Child Exploitation”


Deputy Minister Tseng, Director General Wu, Director General Hsieh, Vice Chair Liao, Mr. Shih, distinguished guests, good morning.

I appreciate the invitation to speak to you today.  We’re here to address the important topic of the safety of our children.  Specifically, we’re here to discuss the critical issue of combating child exploitation.  I think this assembly of distinguished guests from the both the United States and Taiwan demonstrates that this is an issue that spans borders and cultures, and also illustrates the strength of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership in tackling tough issues that affect both the U.S. and Taiwan.

I would, of course, also like to acknowledge attendees from other parts of the world, and thank you for being here.  This is truly a global issue.

Child Exploitation

Technological progress has brought us many new and wonderful opportunities, but it has also brought many new challenges.  Today’s youth, in particular, can face many dangers without leaving the comfort of their own homes.  Along with the explosion of knowledge and opportunities now available through the internet, new ways to exploit this new technology to commit transnational crimes have also emerged.  Children are among the most vulnerable victims of such criminal activity.

The online exploitation of children, including child pornography, or images of child sexual abuse, is a problem around the globe.  Yet the number of related arrests and prosecutions remains low.  History has shown that these criminal activities do not simply go away; unless we take aggressive action to combat these crimes and educate the public, they continue to proliferate.  The United States is firmly committed to fighting online child exploitation, and we welcome all who are willing to join this fight.

Taiwan’s Efforts to Combat the Problem

Sexual exploitation, in all its forms, is a serious human rights problem that damages both individuals and societies.  For this reason, Taiwan and the United States have been close partners in combating trafficking in persons and protecting victims.  I commend Taiwan for its leadership and ceaseless efforts in this cause.  For four years in a row, Taiwan has maintained its Tier 1 status in the Department of State’s Trafficking-in-Persons Report.  Many societies today see Taiwan as a model to follow in their efforts to fight trafficking in persons.

I would like to give a big “thank you” to ECPAT for their contribution to this achievement.  The American Institute in Taiwan partnered with ECPAT in the fight against child exploitation, and we rely heavily on ECPAT expertise in this field.

In December 2012, President Ma Ying-Jeou awarded ECPAT International with the prestigious Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award, accompanied by a grant of $100,000 U.S. dollars, for its work in fighting the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography.  One month later, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency enlisted ECPAT to research how to strengthen Taiwan’s Human Trafficking Prevention and Control Law.

ECPAT has teamed up with other non-governmental organizations in a grassroots effort to draft an amendment to strengthen Taiwan’s current Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act.  Their efforts will help to create tougher enforcement, prosecution, and criminal sentences for those who exploit children, even including the possession of child pornography.

I know there are other organizations, in addition to some official entities, doing equally critical work to address this problem.  I commend all of them for their efforts.

Recent Success Stories

These efforts have resulted in tangible successes.  As many of you are aware, just last week the cooperative efforts of authorities in Taiwan, the United States, China, Hong Kong, and Macao led to the arrests of hundreds of people, including 45 in Taiwan, who were involved in running two Chinese-language child pornography websites.  These sites had millions of users, including over 10,000 in Taiwan.  A Taiwan teenager who had been sexually exploited for five years was rescued in the same operation.

In addition to last week’s arrests, the Criminal Investigations Bureau earlier this month arrested a man for running a website that sends child pornography to users’ social media accounts.

We also note that the National Communications Commission recently launched a website aimed at promoting child online safety.

While these successes have been remarkable, there is still much to be done.  Taiwan and the United States must continue to leverage our strong cooperative relationship not only in addressing trafficking in persons, but also in addressing all other forms of exploitation, including online child exploitation.

Efforts by Law Enforcement

The great work done by non-governmental organizations cannot stand alone.  Courageous leaders in law enforcement, the judiciary, and the legislature are needed for strategically planning and executing the work.

The technological and transnational nature of online exploitation makes it difficult to investigate and prosecute such crimes.  As one law enforcement officer discovers an ongoing crime, it can just as quickly move out of his or her jurisdiction.  Because of this, there is a great need for a unified multilateral approach to combating online child exploitation.  To this end, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice published a “National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction:  A Report to Congress.”

This strategy is a framework that outlines national goals and actions, and how they will be measured.  It establishes how the various government and law enforcement agencies collaborate in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting online child exploitation.  There are several units within various government agencies dedicated specifically to combating child exploitation.  Our national strategy brings these agencies together in a single effort.  In addition, the strategy includes public-private partnerships with NGOs and private industry, international cooperation efforts, the creation of specialized task forces, educational and internet safety programs, and technological assistance for law enforcement.  I encourage Taiwan to also develop a national strategy to fight this growing problem.

Encouraging Taiwan to Develop a National Strategy

At the cornerstone of such an integrated strategy is a need for laws that directly address the problem.  If society does not have strong laws that deter would-be offenders from viewing child pornography, the children already exploited in the production of these images become victimized, yet again, as perpetrators view the images with impunity.  Research cited in the U.S. National Strategy Report shows that it is very difficult to rehabilitate those who sexually exploit children, including those who view child pornography.  Research also indicates that those who view child pornography are more likely sexually assault a child.

We will only be able to successfully combat child exploitation by making it clear that society will not tolerate participation in the sexual assault of children, even through viewing such images.  Society should do everything possible to ensure that those who exploit children and quickly arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison.

It is important for the law enforcement and justice sectors to be funded specifically for the purpose of fighting child exploitation.  Strong laws, combined with such funding, help prosecutors and the police obtain the tools, technology, and training they need to effectively deter potential criminals and pursue, prosecute, and convict those who exploit children.

Law enforcement officials have an especially urgent need for such technological tools and training in order to get ahead of tech-savvy criminals.  Offenders have become more sophisticated in their efforts to avoid being caught, with tactics including the use of multiple layers of encryption and proxy servers in other countries to elude detention.

Successfully investigating and capturing such evasive and deceptive criminals requires law enforcement to infiltrate every corner of the internet in which sex exploiters find refuge.  Undercover computer forensic techniques have successfully uncovered the ploys of organized criminal groups and online predators.  We would be happy to share with Taiwan’s law enforcement agencies the tools and techniques that have worked well for us in this effort.

We’re quickly approaching the first anniversary of Taiwan’s accession to the Visa Waiver Program, which we continue to cite as one of the most significant developments in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship in recent history.  Taiwan’s membership in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program is possible, in part, because of our mutual commitment to help each other prevent and combat serious crime.  I hope the United States and Taiwan will continue to cooperate, particularly in the area of identifying dangerous sex offenders.  This way we can help each other to more effectively arrest and prosecute those who exploit children and put an end to the illicit businesses, websites, and social groups that perpetuate such crimes.

Having the right laws, resources, and training are very important, but let us not forget how we got here.  It is the ceaseless efforts of individual volunteers and non-government organizations dedicated to noble social causes that often bring us to a realization of social problems that need higher-level attention.

The U.S. Experience

In the United States, for example, the FBI created the Innocent Images National Initiative to address the high-tech nature of online child exploitation.  Agents enroll in a Cyber Career Path to specialize in cyber crimes and receive specialized training, including online undercover and advanced cyber crime courses.  They use highly sophisticated tools and methods to investigate and identify subjects who are using technology to evade law enforcement detection.  This initiative includes an International Task Force that enables the real-time transfer of information between the FBI and task force members in different countries and brings together law enforcement entities from around the world to address the global crime problem of online child exploitation.

Partnerships between NGO’s and governments are one of the most powerful tools available.  In the United States, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with U.S. government funding and in cooperation with law enforcement agencies, has been instrumental in analyzing millions of child exploitation images and videos and identifying thousands of exploited children.  I am glad to see John Shehan here representing the Center.

In addition to these efforts by authorities and NGOs, the contributions of money, time, and talent by individuals and private companies to efforts that protect children are also crucial.  This is especially important for the telecommunications industry, which has the power to make it more difficult for criminals to use their technology to exploit children, and can facilitate the technological tools necessary to identify victims and suspects.

Public Awareness

There is also a great need to educate the public on child exploitation and how we can protect our children when they use the Internet.  I commend the many public awareness efforts of ECPAT and others through websites, hotlines, and outreach events.  I encourage parents, students, caregivers, educators, medical and mental health professionals, social service providers, and religious leaders to learn more about online sexual exploitation and how to prevent, detect, and combat this evil.

In the United States, we have also found it is helpful for the public to become more aware of who the sex offenders are and where they live, in order to better protect children.  That’s why the U.S. government publishes names, photos, locations, and other information about sex offenders through the Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website.

Press reports and academic research are also important public awareness tools, in addition to NGO and government efforts.  As a trusted outlet of mass information, the press, some of whom we welcome to today’s opening ceremony, play a major role in informing the public about current child exploitation cases, getting people involved in identifying missing children and wanted criminals, and providing public service announcements on internet safety and other topics of interest.  Indeed, just last week as we prepared for today’s conference, I noted that a major magazine in Taiwan highlighted the issue of sexual exploitation in its cover story.  While the issue is an incredibly unfortunate one and we wouldn’t say the timing was fortuitous, we note that the discussion is happening.

Academia can give us a broader understanding of current problems and provide possible solutions.  Psychological, sociological, medical, and statistical research, for instance, can help us understand what causes people to become interested in exploiting children, the methods exploiters use to appeal to children, the magnitude of the problem, and how to rehabilitate victims and offenders.


Along with Taiwan’s impressive success in combating trafficking in persons, Taiwan can make another tremendous contribution to human rights through its efforts to combat online child exploitation.  The United States supports Taiwan in its efforts today and wishes the participants in today’s conference well as you discuss strategies to combat child exploitation.  U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing.”  This is something that we can all agree on – that protecting children is the right thing to do.

Again, thank you for welcoming me today, and I wish you success in your discussions today.