“Our new LMS is helping INHOPE sharpen our capacity to identify child sexual abuse material globally, reduce its availability, and help minimize online re-victimization,” says Amy Crocker, the hotline development coordinator for INHOPE, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Amy Crocker

I wrote recently about Internet safety, our responsibility in eLearning to be aware of the risks, and our roles in helping keep the Internet safe. However, whatever we do, there is a dark side that is a real threat to every human being—especially children. That challenge is being addressed by INHOPE, an active and collaborative network of 51 hotlines in 45 countries worldwide, that is committed to stamping out child sexual abuse material from the Internet.

INHOPE comprises the INHOPE Association and the INHOPE Foundation, a charity constituted in 2010 to help start up new hotline activities in emerging markets. INHOPE has a tiny but highly specialized secretariat, with the range of skills necessary to ensure an effective operation.

As Internet accessibility comes to places where connectivity, bandwidth, availability of devices, and other barriers had previously denied the opportunity to citizens, those constraints are disappearing. That’s the good news for millions now able to access information, to communicate, and to learn through technology.

The bad news is that the Internet’s dark side is expanding just as fast, in many countries exploiting the lack of awareness, governance, political will, and judicial capability to ensure the safety of users, especially children and other vulnerable groups. Even in places where significant national response mechanisms are in place, there is a constant battle to ensure the health of an Internet that transcends boundaries.

I recently interviewed INHOPE’s Amy Crocker.

Amy tells me: “INHOPE grew out of a 1999 initiative within the European Union into a global network of hotlines. The INHOPE Foundation was established to spread the knowledge and experience to countries where the risks are outpacing their current speed of development of appropriate governance. We aim to help the creation and coordination of hotlines as a way for Internet users to be able to take responsibility for the net.”

“Establishing new national hotlines is a complex challenge” she says. “The timelines and speed of progress have to align with the country’s ability to put the governance in place. We and our partner organizations help with examples of protocols, legal frameworks, hotline designs, and operating procedures. We also provide advice on creating public trust for exposing and eliminating child sexual abuse material from the Internet. One of the biggest issues is creating enough visibility to sustain the new hotlines.”

Nowadays there is a sophisticated global network of organizations, among whom INHOPE is a major player, that have the ability, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies and the Internet industry, to rapidly identify and act to remove child-abuse material from the Internet in response to hotline information. Amy says, “Local hotlines have well-trained analysts, good data systems, and rapid-response protocols.”

Until recently national hotline staff could only be trained on a face-to-face basis, but recognizing a need and the opportunities offered by technology, a new LMS, supplied by DOCEBO, has changed that. Amy: “Masterminded by INHOPE’s training and services manager, Denton Howard, INHOPE can now provide online learning for our hotline network—webinars, static courses, and other media. This also opens up the opportunity for certification of analysts and for ongoing monitoring of standards through compliance evaluations.” This all ensures that exploiters of the net’s most vulnerable people will find it harder to do, and that every user will be safer and have a more wholesome world of knowledge to explore.

Working with multiple stakeholders, dependent on public trust, ensuring support for referrals and children who are victims, while at the same applying the full force of criminal investigation techniques is challenging. Developing online learning in this environment has interesting dimensions. The need for accessibility is paramount—making language issues, cultural sensitivities, and the challenging entrenched attitudes toward child sexual abuse a delicate balance. One size will not fit all—but there are global commonalities.

Currently, materials are mainly in English as the working language of INHOPE, but the expansion of work into South America (Brazil, Colombia, and Peru have hotlines and others countries are developing them) is requiring courses in Spanish with possible further diversification, such as French. “Accessibility” is key to local support and hotline use.

It is a constant struggle to keep up with and stop the abusers, and stop the circulation of images and videos of child sexual abuse online. Better coordination of learning and the pervasive technology of the Internet can be used to stop young lives being ruined and our global culture being debased.

Take responsibility—join the fight!