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Monday, June 24, 2024

Homeland Security Advisory Council Unveils Recommendations to Enhance DHS Efforts to Combat Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Fifth in-person meeting of the Homeland Security Advisory Council focuses on Secretary Mayorkas’s Department-wide priority to combat crimes of exploitation

The DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) released recommendations yesterday to inform the Department’s efforts to combat rapidly increasing crimes of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). The HSAC’s final report of the Combatting Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Subcommittee presented six recommendations on how the consolidation of efforts at the Department and continued engagement with both federal and private sector stakeholders can complement the work DHS is already doing every day. The recommendations are:

  • Establish and empower an office at DHS to lead DHS-wide efforts to combat online CSEA and create a unified body, similar to a Fusion Center, to coordinate the whole-of-government approach to respond to this crime.
  • Implement solutions that go beyond solely law enforcement activity to bring together public and private sector partners to address these crimes.
  • Coordinate with law enforcement and platform vendors to create a unified system to review CSEA investigations and relevant information.
  • Ensure law enforcement and frontline personnel who engage with CSEA in their duties have access to well-being and mental health support resources.
  • Continue to build Know2Protect, the Department’s public awareness campaign to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Position DHS to play a pivotal role in coordinating and enlisting other U.S. agencies and departments in combatting CSEA.

“A crime as heinous as child sexual exploitation and abuse demands the full weight of the Department of Homeland Security’s law enforcement and prevention capabilities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The insight, expertise, and recommendations provided by the Department’s advisory councils, including our Homeland Security Advisory Council and Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council, are critical to guiding our relentless, unified work across the homeland security mission. The reports put forward this week will help us fulfill one of our most fundamental responsibilities: keeping kids safe.”

Online child exploitation and abuse is reaching epidemic proportions and threatens the safety of children globally. In 2023, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received more than 36 million CyberTipline® reports of suspected online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), a 360% increase over the number of reports received 10 years ago.

This report follows recommendations to combat CSEA in educational spaces presented by the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council (HSAPC) earlier this week. The HSAPC’s Combatting Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Subcommittee report will help inform the development of DHS’s strategy to engage educators on how best to protect young people from this horrific crime by providing standards for the development of CSEA-related educational content and how to best reach the appropriate audiences.

The HSAPC also presented a report on how to reduce and counter foreign malign influence (FMI) in higher education. The Foreign Malign Influence in Higher Education Subcommittee examined FMI threats to research and campus climates. They further looked at how transnational repression, a particular kind of FMI, may exacerbate these threats, and prepared recommendations to address these emerging issues.

Earlier this year, Secretary Mayorkas tasked three of the Department’s advisory bodies, the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council, and the Faith Based Security Advisory Council, to examine the Department’s efforts to combat these crimes and provide recommendations on how to advance this important work to keep kids safe.

The FBSAC is set to present recommendations later this month about how DHS can engage with faith-based leaders to raise awareness of online CSEA.

This first-ever multi-Council tasking demonstrates the priority given to combating crimes of exploitation across the entire Department, spearheaded by the Secretary. In April, DHS launched the Know2Protect public awareness campaign with 16 outside organizations to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse by meeting people where they are and sharing tips parents and kids should know to stay safe online. Partners include Snap, Meta, Roblox, Google, NASCAR, the National Fusion Center Association, National Police Athletic/Activities League, NFL, NHL, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executives Association, and more.

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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