Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has introduced legislation to enhance the power of Commonwealth law enforcement to combat serious crimes on the dark web, including child sexual abuse.
Dutton told Parliament on Thursday the legislation would allow the law enforcement agencies to shine a light into the darkest recesses of the online world and hold those hiding there to account.
“We are determined to provide our agencies with all reasonable powers necessary to protect the lives of children and to protect the Australian public from criminals acting anonymously online,” he said.
The legislation would provide three new powers to combat online crime.
- It will allow investigators to collect intelligence through access to online networks to “identify offenders and the scope of their offending online, including on the dark web.”
- It will allow agencies to disrupt criminal activity online, which would limit it and protect people from further victimisation.
- It will allow agencies to hack a person’s online account to gather evidence to expose online criminality.
“These key new powers are critical in enabling law enforcement to tackle the fundamental shift in how serious criminality is occurring online,” Dutton said.
The minister also noted that without enhancing the agencies’ powers, the government would leave Australia with outdated methods of attacking pockets of online crime that were on the rise.
Dark web criminals are hard to catch due to anonymising technology combined with less-traceable cryptocurrencies allowing criminals to trade in”the most abhorrent online marketplaces with perceived impunity.”
“The technology has gotten ahead of us,” Mr Dutton said.
However, not all activities are going unchecked.
The newly set up Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), working alongside the Australian Federal Police and partner agencies, have saved 229 children from harm.
More than 250,000 child abuse material files have been intercepted in the last 12 months—making up more than 4,000 images and 2,200 videos.
Since July 2018, there have been 302 arrests made with more than 2300 charges laid and 229 children removed from harm, both in Australia and overseas.
The centre identified a 163 percent increase in child abuse material downloaded on the dark web between April to June compared to the same period last year.
Dutton commended the men and women in the law enforcement agencies for “their collective outstanding work to date and the lives they have saved.”
“Unfortunately, though, the threat continues to grow,” he warned.