On January 26, cooperation between INHOPE and Tether was announced to combat CSAM in the vastness of the network. Tether has become the first cryptocurrency partner of INHOPE on this self-censoring initiative.
INHOPE is a global network that has been fighting the spread of online materials related to child sexual abuse (CSAM) since 1999. In November 2022, 50 hotlines in 46 countries around the world were operating within the organization.
Any user can anonymously report illegal content to one of the hotlines. An analysis of the content is carried out, and if the material is deemed to be prohibited INHOPE employees send the content to law enforcement agencies, and also notify the hosting provider of the need to remove unacceptable content.
Tether has repeatedly stated that they cooperate with law enforcement agencies and help to solve and investigate cybercrimes. Perhaps that is why Tether realized that it can be quite an effective force not only in investigating financial crimes, but also in helping protect children around the world. The company plans to standardize the work of crypto companies to detect CSAM markets and transfer information to law enforcement agencies.
“Working alongside law enforcement, financial intelligence units, lawmakers and standard-setting bodies worldwide, Tether is committed to being a positive force in the crypto space by highlighting the risks of child exploitation and to help organise sensible risk mitigating controls in the cryptocurrency industry. We are especially interested in improving the ability of cryptocurrency businesses to identify transfers related to online CSAM marketplaces and report them to the authorities.” - said CTO of Tether, Paolo Ardoino.
The fact that they are willing to cooperate is also interesting because it shows Tether’s principles within the industry. They want to work for the benefit of the community by adhering to their principles. For example, while Circle, after problems with Tornado Cash, blocked wallets associated with the crypto-mixer, Tether stated that at the request of the authorities, only private wallets are blocked, and not those associated with exchanges or other services. Today, we see that the cooperation between Tether and INHOPE shows that Tether is ready to block certain transactions to help society. This demonstrates that the USDT issuer may not block wallets at the request of authorities, as in the case of Tornado Cash, as it is committed to Defi, but may restrict the freedom of users in order to curb crime in the process of cooperation with socially useful organizations.
INHOPE stressed the importance of cooperation with Tether, since transactions using various cryptocurrencies can occur on platforms distributing CSE and CSA.
"Criminals exchanging online CSA and CSE materials in financial transactions are sadly found on every technology platform today. Cryptocurrency exchange companies, hotlines and law enforcement need to seek more solutions to fight CSAM by sharing critical information and actionable intelligence with increased efficiency. To respond to this need, Tether is aware that they and other companies in the same industry must be part of this fight, especially where CSE and CSA materials are traded with cryptocurrencies. By supporting INHOPE’s work Tether is leading the way in prioritising child protection.” - said Samantha Woolfe, Head of Global Partnerships and Network Expansion at INHOPE.
According to Tether’s message, during 2023 INHOPE plans to create a special forum that will allow hotline workers to find out how they can influence cryptocurrency transactions related to CSAM.
The question of using cryptocurrencies on CSAM-related platforms is really quite acute, and not for the first time. According to an article in the Financial Times in 2021, a study was released on the increase in the number of sites that allow you to pay for the purchase of content containing CSAM using cryptocurrency. The Internet Watch Foundation, an Internet surveillance organization that is similar to INHOPE and has hotlines for appeals, reported that since 2018 the number of sites where payment for CSAM materials were made using cryptocurrency, doubled every year.
There has been much talk and concern about the risks associated with unregulated areas of cryptocurrency transfers, that are utilized by criminals. Traditionally, such concerns are addressed by regulators and law enforcement bodies. In this case, we see an initiative by a crypto firm itself. Given the global reach and scale of Tether, this move is quite important. Let's hope that the cooperation between Tether and INHOPE will be successful and will set an example for other crypto companies. We will continue to observe and keep you informed about the news!