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Laureate WTISD 2009
Address by Mr. Robert G. Conway, Chief Executive Officer, GSM Association 

 

Your Excellencies,
distinguished guests,

It is a great honour for me to be here today to receive the ITU World Telecommunications and Information Society Award on behalf of the GSM Association.
 
In February last year the GSMA was proud to announce the launch of its Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The members of our Mobile Alliance include some of the world’s largest operators and they stood together to stop an insidious use of mobile technology—that is for the unlawful exploitation and abuse of children.  At the launch, we were fortunate to have Secretary General Dr. Toure, as well as EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, present and supporting our  initiative at the Mobile World Congress.
 
What are we talking about here?
 
As I mentioned, we are talking about the unlawful exploitation of children.  We are talking about young children, indeed very young children, the majority of whom are under 10 years old.  We are talking about these young children being sexually abused.  We are talking about pictures of this horrendous abuse being posted online and circulated all over the world, everyday.  
 
Just last week, the UK reported the conviction of a paedophile ring of 9 men, who had abused children and collected over 75,000 digital images of child sexual abuse which they shared online. We heard the details of how a 6 year old child, an 18 month old child and a 3 month old baby were abused by this gang. These men are now behind bars, but the images of these children being abused may continue to be available online and be available to other paedophiles unless we and others act.   We have acted and we will continue to act. We support others who have acted. Online child sexual abuse content has no place on our mobile phones, our PCs or any where else. 
 
So what is aim of GSMA’s Mobile Alliance and its member operators?

We aim to obstruct the use of the mobile environment for the consumption of, or to profit from, child sexual abuse content and halt the spread of this content on mobile.  Today, the problem is largely on the fixed internet.  For example, one operator noted an average of 5 million attempts on its fixed line network but only 25,000 attempts on its mobile network in the same timeframe.  However, any attempt is terrible and should not be tolerated and therefore which is why we are working so hard to block access on mobile.

Our Mobile Alliance members support and promote the use of ‘hotlines’ for customers to report child sexual abuse content on the Internet or on mobile services. Members implement Notice and Take Down processes, to enable the swift removal of any child sexual abuse content posted on operator-hosted services and they block access to websites that are known to contain child sexual abuse content based on lists provided by appropriate agencies or law enforcement.  
 
GSMA provides expertise, tool kits and critical information sharing on technology, developments and best practices.  We use our Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and our Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong to highlight developments and vigorously promote the programme as well as our comprehensive industry network.
 
In Europe, many operators are supporting hotlines, have processes in place to remove any child sexual abuse content hosted on their systems and are restricting access to known sites. Thus  Operators like Vodafone, Telefonica and Orange are working to make sure technical barriers to this unlawful content are in place.

Outside Europe, GSMA is increasing awareness and action in the mobile area.  In Africa, Mobile Alliance members MTN Group and Vodacom SA have hotlines and are implementing measures across the African continent.
 
In Latin America, Telefonica Group is raising awareness of the issues and is working with local stakeholders to help develop hotlines and improve the understanding of legal issues.  In Asia, operators like Dialog Telekom in Sri Lanka have launched an initiative to proactively deny access to websites identified as hosting child sexual abuse content in conjunction with the Internet Watch Foundation and the national Sri Lankan hotline.

As the global industry association for the mobile ecosystem of over 750 operator members and many more suppliers, we take seriously our responsibility to member customers and to our communities. We want people to benefit from all the positive attributes of mobile.
 
The battle we are waging today is clearly not a battle we can win alone.  We must and do work with other critical players who share a common goal of protecting children from abuse and exploitation online. Therefore we are pleased that we are able to work in close cooperation with the ITU’s Child Online Protection initiative.  Secretary General, we very much appreciate your leadership and your support for efforts in this area. The very fact that the ITU is recognising the work in this area is a testament to that leadership.  Thank you.
 
At GSMA we are promoting globally a safe experience for children on mobile. We promote age-based classification of content and tools to control its access by parents.  We seek to educate users on how to deal with spam, theft and inappropriate contact as well as safe and appropriate usage in general.  We are working with the European Commission to develop self-regulatory frameworks covering children’s use of mobile.

The fruits of this work, experience and learnings have been contributed to the ITU’s Draft Guidelines for Industry. We applaud the ITU’s effort to coalesce the important work of the many players in this area.
 
Our efforts in addressing the needs of children to enjoy a safe mobile experience and to block their unlawful exploitation has been quietly led by a dear colleague, Natasha Jackson. It is her passion for the protection of children that has been much of the force behind GSMA’s efforts. I want her to recognise her efforts, encourage her never to lose faith in those efforts and to be guided by her good principles as they will serve us all well. Natasha please stand so we can all give you recognition.

Tomorrow’s Natasha will present more on our industry’s efforts in the WSIS Session on Child Online Protection so please attend if you can.

Thank you and thank you Secretary General.

 


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