Europol’s Child Abuse Image Geolocated In Ukraine: A Forgotten Story Hidden Behind A Landscape
Research by Carlos Gonzales, Daniel Romein, Timmi Allen and “Bo”
The following report contains reference to a child modelling studio producing child sexual abuse material in 2001. All names related to the studio are fictitious. The original source did not contain any explicit material. All the images accessed and used during the investigation were already censored, but for the avoidance of doubt, it must be noted that the researchers did not obtain, look or download any explicit content. The original source was shared with Europol before the publication of this report and cannot be revealed for protection of the victims and as to not impede the investigations. Although the main objective of the article is to show the method by which an image listed by Europol was geolocated, Bellingcat have decided to publish some details found in the investigation to create awareness of the subject and to support Europol’s #StopChildAbuse campaign.
Europol currently holds more than 40 million images of child sexual abuse from across the world. In June 2017, Europol launched a crowdsourcing campaign called Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object. Censored extracts from explicit images are regularly published on their website and members of the public are asked to help tracing their location or country of origin. These tips are then used to inform the competent law enforcement authority to further investigate the lead and to assist in the identification of the offender and the victim.
As of 23 March 2019, Europol has received more than 23,000 tips, which led to the identification of eight victims and the prosecution of one offender. In recent reports, Bellingcat wrote about their contribution to geolocating images in China and Russia.