Parliamentary Committee - Submission 27 to the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into ‘Law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation’

Roderic Broadhurst, Matthew Ball

    Research output: Other contribution


    The Australian Commonwealth Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 20202, which passed both houses of parliament on August 25, 2021, will assist law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in investigating serious crime including online child sex abuse materials (CSAM). Despite relevant tools such as data disruption, network activity and account takeover warrants, LEAs will nevertheless encounter challenges in the darkweb – notably Tor (formerly known as The Onion Router), the largest of the anonymous platforms. Anonymous Internet services, such as Tor, are designed to evade surveillance and its highly decentralised structure is resilient despite the periodic success of cross-jurisdictional policing operations in disrupting, arresting, and closing both illicit contraband markets and CSAM sites on Tor (Broadhurst, et al., 2021). The deterrent effect of LEA operations tends to be short lived, but can influence the perceptions of risk and deter potential offenders. LEA operations also can stimulate self-regulation (e.g., banning and/or censoring particular products or interests) among some relevant Tor hidden or ‘onion’ service providers. Anonymity also provides opportunities to reach out to existing support ‘communities’ among these online secretive sub-cultures and seek support in crafting relevant online health, education and treatment referral services.This submission considers the capability of Australia’s law enforcement agencies to tackle the growing scourge of child exploitation. In particular, concern about the existence of dedicated CSAM onion services hosted on the Tor network were raised (Terms of Reference [a]). This also required an understanding of the tools used by offenders to access CSAM and the ability of law enforcement to detect CSAM and identify offenders (Terms of Reference [d]). We suggest specific support be provided to develop and evaluate online treatment programs for CSAM offenders using the anonymous format provided by Tor . Finally, we propose a study examining the links between offline and online/contact and non-contact offenders in the context of anonymity (Terms of Reference [f]).
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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