In the mid 2000’s, it became evident to ICMEC and others, that people were using their credit cards to buy images of children being sexually abused online.
“If people were purchasing heroin and cocaine using their credit cards, we would be outraged and would do something about it. This is worse.”Senator Richard Shelby, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
In response, the Financial Coalition Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FCACSE) was launched in 2006 by ICMEC and its sister agency, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The U.S. FCACSE’s membership includes dozens of the country’s leading banks, credit card companies, electronic payment networks, third-party-payments companies, and Internet services companies.
Working with law enforcement, the FCACSE’s mission has been to disrupt the economics of the child pornography business — and it has met its goal. Websites offering child sexual abuse material now frequently direct buyers away from traditional payment methods such as credit cards, having to recommend more complicated alternatives that may dissuade some potential purchasers. As a result of its efforts, the use of credit cards to purchase child sexual abuse content online has been virtually eliminated globally.
This is a stunning accomplishment, but ICMEC and the FCACSE are mindful of the need to stay vigilant and continue to fight those who seek to profit from the sexual exploitation of children. Consequently, it has expanded its areas of focus to include child sex trafficking and live on-demand sexual abuse of children via video platforms. Additionally, the FCACSE is:
- Emphasizing prevention through a workshop for the financial industry titled “The Payments Industry’s Role in Protecting Children”, which has been featured in webinars and conferences hosted by leading payments companies and associations. Prevention guidance is also offered in the FCACSE’s thought-leadership paper Internet Merchant Acquisition and Monitoring Sound Practices to Help Reduce the Proliferation of Commercial Child Pornography.
- Keeping a watchful eye on developments related to the platforms and payment methods that can be used to support the sale of images and videos of children being sexually exploited. Accordingly ICMEC and the FCACSE, embarked on an exploration of cryptocurrencies and the role they play in commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2017, Looking Glass Cybersolutions, a member of the FCACSE, delivered a first-class study on the subject. In 2021, in partnership with Standard Chartered, ICMEC has produced a report on usage of cryptocurrency in the trade of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as well as case studies of law enforcement takedowns of websites relying on cryptocurrency for the trade of CSAM.