David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat. David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat.
The head of the United Nations’ cybercrime and anti-money-laundering branch has warned that investigating online child sexual abuse has become considerably more difficult since the advent of cryptocurrency.
Neil Walsh told Australia’s ABC the true scale of online child sexual abuse is much, much bigger than many realise, and that cryptocurrency — like Bitcoin — has added an additional layer of anonymity that favors perpetrators.
“It’s what makes it really hard for cops [and] investigators to manage some really big risks. Because in the past, when we looked at some of those really big high threat areas, like kids getting abused online, it had to be paid for, and now with the use of cryptocurrencies, it’s exceptionally difficult for investigators to track and manage that risk,” Walsh told ABC.
“When we look at some of the really high-risk crime, where we see kids, and I’m talking babies – very, very young, six months old and younger, who are in pay-per-view, live, online child sexual abuse streaming websites that’s getting paid for by cryptocurrencies, we need to have some sort of options,” said Walsh. “We need to know how we try and challenge that threat, and reduce the risks for kids and reduce the opportunities for criminals to get involved.”
Regulating cryptocurrency exchanges is one of those options. In particular, Walsh views forcing exchange users to reveal their identities as necessary to “keep the most vulnerable in our society safe.”
The thing is, Walsh believes adhering to strict Know-Your-Customer and Anti-Money-Laundering regulations is “not really a large amount of risk,” which isn’t likely to sit well with cypherpunks and cryptocurrency purists.
The pseudonymity provided by Bitcoin is also referred to as a “layer of secrecy” in the interview, which is rather loaded language, but understandable given the context.
In the end, Walsh reinforced that regulating global use of cryptocurrency is going to take lots of different brains. “It’s going to take technologists, policymakers, philosophers, the whole nine yards,” said Walsh.
You can listen to the full interview here.
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