Filters 'not a silver bullet' that will stop perverts, warns Interpol chief
AN Irish policeman who heads up Interpol's fight against paedophiles and child traffickers has backed the Government's decision not to block online pornography in homes.
Mick Moran, who is assistant director with the global policing agency, has tracked down some of the sickest sex offenders around the world.
He knows all too well the danger online pornography poses to children. But in an interview with the Sunday Independent, the Meath man says he does not believe that British Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to enforce anti-porn filters on broadband connections will protect children from "the most horrific material out there".
The head of Interpol's child protection unit believes education is the only way to protect children from sexual predators prowling the web.
"One of the problems with a filter is that parents see it as a 'silver bullet'. But it will just give them a feeling of well-being that everything is under control once you switch it on, when the sad reality is that it is not. No switch or filter will ever be seen as a replacement for good parenting," Moran told the Sunday Independent.
"We are in the middle of a revolution. How we communicate is being revolutionised – and parents haven't kept up with what is going on. They can't deal with it by banning their children from using the internet or filters. You can only deal with it through age-appropriate training and awareness campaigns," he said.
Moran spoke out after child welfare organisations here called on the Government to follow the UK's example by placing anti-pornography filters on Irish home broadband connections.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children argued that pornography was damaging to young children and should be removed from their line of sight.
But Moran warned this would only lull parents into a false sense of security.
"If we imagine the access people had to porn in the past – that access is now complete and total. They have access to the most horrific material out there," he said.
"We now need to focus on parental responsibility about how kids are using the internet," he added.
The former garda, who is now based in Lyon, France, led the high-profile search for Christopher Neil, the 32-year-old Canadian school teacher who posted distorted images of himself raping young Asian boys on paedophile sites on the web.
Moran hired German computer experts to unscramble the image of Neil's face and then launched a publicity campaign which resulted in the child predator's image being splashed across almost every newspaper and television station in the world. And it eventually led to Neil's capture.
He also warned parents of a new phenomenon among teenagers known as 'selfies'. This is where children – some as young as six – copy pop icons such as Rihanna by taking scantly clad photographs of themselves – and then pass the images on to friends or school mates or upload them on the internet.
Moran said entire porn sites are now devoted to these 'amateur' X-rated pictures. These sites increasingly attract the attention of paedophiles.
"We see the pitfalls of these youngsters who are sharing these images, 'selfies', which are basically self-generated child abuse material.
"Youngsters are engaging in sex acts and recording it themselves, or taking pictures of themselves scantily clad on their phones. We're seeing pre-10s, under 12s, usually teenagers, but it can go down as far as six and seven years of age," he said.
"They could be doing it for the thrill of it, they could be innocent to the fact of what they are doing, there could be a vulnerability there – but the situation is that it creates a quagmire for us because they are producing this themselves on their own phones."
Moran again warned parents they must confront the threat head-on by discussing it openly with their children.
"Telling children to stay away from websites such as 'Snap Chat' and 'Chat Roulette' is just crass. Banning children from using certain websites is just not an option. Parents need to have an open discussion with their children and make them aware of the implications of what they are doing," he said.
Mary Aiken is a cyber-psychologist at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland who is currently heading up an international study with Interpol on online risk-taking behaviour. She said children need to be made aware of the dangers that the internet and social-networking sites pose to them.
"Once an item is placed online it can be distributed worldwide especially if it goes viral," the psychologist said.
Leading the war on paedophiles
DET Sgt Mick Moran is a former garda who was closely involved in the investigation into the murder of former Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin, giving pivotal evidence against the Gilligan gang.
Mr Moran grew up in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and was based at Ballymun and Crumlin stations, and later at Harcourt Square.
He is married to a French woman and now lives in Lyon, where he is based with the global policing agency, Interpol.
Since joining Interpol, Mr Moran has risen through the ranks to the position of assistant director, heading up the fight against some of the world's worst paedophiles and child traffickers.
He helped to crack one Interpol investigation by identifying a packet of crisps in the background of a picture of a child rape which enabled detectives to link the crime to the brief period when that particular brand of crisps was on sale in Ireland and the UK.
In another investigation, Mick Moran's team noticed a logo on a towel in one of the pictures which led to the break-up of a paedophile ring that had been operating in a childcare centre.