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According to NCMEC, 19,87,430 incidents of child pornography, pictures and videos of children being sexually abused, and sharing such content took place in 2019 in India. Pakistan ranks second, with 11,58,390 such incidents. Iraq comes third with 10,26,809 incidents. With 700,535 incidents, Algeria is fourth. Bangladesh ranks fifth with 556,642 such child pornographic incidents in that year.

A meeting was held on 24 September, headed by deputy inspector general (DIG), logistics, of the police headquarters, Toufiq Mahbub Chowdhury, to discuss the NCMEC statistics. Also present at the meeting were the police headquarters' DIG (special crime), assistant DIG (crime analysis), deputy commissioner of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) cyber investigation and operation units special superintendent of police and officers of the additional deputy superintendent of police rank. The meeting discussed details of the NCMEC data and investigations to be based on the data.

The police official said in investigating this matter, he came across the presence of many Bangladeshis involved with many active child pornography groups on the 'Dark Web', the websites where all sorts of prohibited content is shared

DIG Toufiq Mahbub Chowdhury, speaking to Prothom Alo, said CID's cyber investigation and operation unit has been given the responsibility to contact NCMEC and collect information. They would also carry out investigations in this connection.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, special superintendent of police of CID's cyber investigation and operation unit, Ashraful Alam, said that they were in contact with NCMEC. The organisation would train some of their officials and then a platform would be formed to deal with these issues.

Lacking in competence

CTTC's cybercrime unit on 15 October this year arrested three students of three private universities in Dhaka for their involvement in child pornography. These three persons would use false identities to make contact with children, adolescents and adult women at home and abroad. Later they would gather their personal photographs and videos and spread these on various websites and the social media.

Various websites show pornographic content of children in Bangladesh being sexually abused. But the law enforcement agencies are not monitoring these adequately. They do not have the investigative competence as yet
Shabnaz Zahereen, UNICEF's child protection specialist

The three students were arrested on the basis of a complaint made by a 14-year-old in the US. The three students had collected the young girl's personal photographs and videos and posted these on an Instagram group. Some family members of the girl were in that group. The young girl provided the CTTC officials with the IMEI number of the criminal's cell phones and what IPS they used for their criminal activities.

Those involved in Bangladesh cybercrime investigations have said that the law enforcement agencies lack in the competence and in the infrastructure required to investigate child pornography. For example, they pointed out, in 2014 CID had arrested three persons including Tipu Kibria, a writer of children's literature and photographer. But that too was after they were identified by the international police agency Interpol. Interpol in 2005 had also informed CID that child pornography was being made in Bangladesh and sent abroad.

CTTC's assistant commissioner Ishtiaq Ahmed told Prothom Alo that the three private university students had tricked at least 30 children of eight countries. Australia and the UK have asked for information regarding the child victims of their countries. The police official said in investigating this matter, he came across the presence of many Bangladeshis involved with many active child pornography groups on the 'Dark Web', the websites where all sorts of prohibited content is shared. It was imperative to identify these persons.

CID has information on over 16,000 instances

CID joined hands with NCMEC in November. Till 13 December, NCMEC informed CID of 16,511 instances of pornography. Of these, 15,618 were on Facebook, 325 on Instagram and the remaining 511 on Google, WhatsApp and other platforms. All necessary information has also been provided to identify the persons involved. This information includes the perpetrators' cell phone numbers, IP address, ISP, Google account, names and types of devices, and even the longitude and latitude of where the content was being uploaded on the internet.

CID' additional superintendent of police Mahmudul Islam Talukdar, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, from the information received so far, they were trying to determine whether anyone was making the child pornography content in Bangladesh. Most of the incidents were of sharing child pornography, but some content seemed to have been made in Bangladesh, using children in sexually explicit scenes. These are being investigated.

The Women and Children Repression Prevention Act provides death sentence for child abduction, extracting ransom, rape, sexual abuse and injury. Under the pornography control act, the making of any sort of pornographic content, sharing, marketing and offensive portrayals are considered to be crimes with punishment of up till 10 years imprisonment.

UNICEF's child protection specialist Shabnaz Zahereen, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that various websites show pornographic content of children in Bangladesh being sexually abused. But the law enforcement agencies are not monitoring these adequately. They do not have the investigative competence as yet. The government must bring the entire matter under strict surveillance.

* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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