“Best Practices in managing cases of Missing and Exploited Children with the use of Technology”

1st International Meeting on “Best Practices in managing cases of Missing and Exploited Children with the use of Technology” | Athens 2024

“The Smile of the Child” in collaboration with the largest child protection organization the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)

Launch of Cybertipline Hellas – exclusive operation by “The Smile of the Child”

With the use of Technology we can save one more child

An international meeting was organized by “The Smile of the Child”, in collaboration with the largest and most recognized child protection organization internationally, the US National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), in order to discuss and present Βest Practices in managing cases of Missing and Exploited Children with the use of Technology, in two parts: on Thursday, January 25th online and on Friday, January 26th on site, in Athens.

“The Smile of the Child”, as a pioneer in good practices to ensure child well-being and defending the rights of the child, is constantly evolving scientifically and technologically, so that every child can have the life that it deserves.  Thanks to the invaluable contribution of its international partnerships and the “Technology Team for Children” – a global best practice in Greece-, “Smile” has managed to use technological tools for the benefit of children, such as Amber Alert Hellas, Missing Alert Hellas, European Missing Alert Automated System (EMAAS), Missing Alert Protocol, Mobile Command Center, GMCNgine, Vappy Smile application, Cybertipline Hellas, etc.

On Thursday, 25 January, “The Smile of the Child” and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) (USA) presented their own best technological practices during an online event, together with several other leading organizations, companies and actors, namely, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) (USA), the Federation of Internet Alerts (FIA) (USA), the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (NCMPUR) and Missing Children Society of Canada (Canada), Bode Technology (USA), Cellebrite, Tremau (France), Videntifier Technologies (Iceland), Web-IQ (The Netherlands), Missing Children Europe (MCE) (Belgium), Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) (Italy), ITI-CERTH (Greece) and Meta (USA).  You can watch their presentations here:

On the following day, Friday, January 26th, during an onsite event in Athens, Ms. Piji Protopsaltis, Coordinator of International Cooperation at “The Smile”, first briefly presented what had been discussed during the online event of the previous day, noting that “For the very first time, so many institutions, organizations and actors met and shared their tools, while stressing the importance of cooperation and exchange of experiences, practices and technologies, as well as the further use and improvement of these technologies for the best interest of children”.

In a crowded room, where representatives of government, armed forces, police, coast guard, fire brigade, as well as tech companies and other actors and partners gathered, speakers highlighted the value and the positive and practical impact of the use of Technology in the lives of children.  Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, President of the Board of “The Smile”, welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their presence, stating: “I would especially like to welcome you, and express how happy and excited I am to have hosted today and yesterday, our friends from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). An organization that is very important for Greece, for America and for the entire world, as it is the largest and most recognized organization in the world in child protection, and without them, as pioneers, we wouldn’t fulfill our wishes.” He then added: “Yesterday and today, with what was discussed in this meeting, we found out that the success of what we have achieved in the field of child protection comes from our partnership, the unification of forces -organizations, institutions, security forces, etc.- both at the European and the international level”.

Brief addresses made by key institutional participants then followed.  Ms. Sofia Zacharaki, Minister for Social Cohesion and Family Affairs, representing the Prime Minister, said: ““The Smile of the Child” is a partner organization that applies innovative approaches to novel challenges and issues that are of daily concern. Here today, before all the armed forces and partners, we feel a real honor but also emotion, and above all gratitude, for all the work done by the values and worthy representatives, who we believe are beside us in every aspect of everyday life and who give their best every time, so that all this can be incorporated into everyday life.”

In turn Mr. Dimitris Papastergiou, Minister of Digital Governance, addressed the audience and noted: “We must support the vision of Mr. Costas Yannopoulos and each of us, from our own position of responsibility, should explore how we can contribute to the work that “The Smile of the Child” is doing. Technology is a “vehicle” and not an end in itself that can “lead” us to address important problems by offering solutions tailored to the real needs of society”.

Mr. Benjamin Ousley Naseman, Consul General of the US Embassy in Athens, expressed his thanks for the honor and noted the importance of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), stating that “Our most important responsibility, and the most important responsibility of any society, is to protect our children, our future”.

Ms. Michelle DeLaune, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), USA, presented the best practices of NCMEC for preventing and responding to incidents of Missing and Exploited Children in the US using technology, while she also referred to the long-standing collaboration with “The Smile of the Child”, saying: “I cannot describe what an honor it is to be here today and to see this amazing support for the work of “The Smile of the Child”. As Mr. Yannopoulos emphasized, we need to become a team. No one can achieve results alone. We need to unite, to unite society as a whole, with the authorities, the prosecutors, the government, the private sector, in order to make a difference in the world. The invitation to attend this event and to address so many different organizations that shared –for the very first time– their best technology practices for missing and exploited children was a great honor for me”.

As a way to show respect and gratitude to Ms. Michelle DeLaune, Mr. Costas Yannopoulos honored her with the “Andreas Yannopoulos Award” for the invaluable contribution of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) – to the protection of children in Greece and globally.

Mr. Vasileios Papakostas, Police Colonel, Director of the Cyber Crime Division of the Hellenic Police, presented the work of the Cyber Crime Division and said “We must contribute daily to stop child abuse, on issues related to child abuse, sexual exploitation -especially we as a Service- and especially if these acts are done through the Internet”.

Mr. Antonis Tsiboukis, Managing Director of Cisco for Greece Cyprus Malta, presented an international good practice in Greece,  namely, the “Technology Team for Children”, where all the unique tools available to “The Smile” were mentioned, thanks to the invaluable contribution of the Team, stating: “”The Technology Team for Children” is a group in which all multinational companies from abroad, as well as Greece, large companies etc., participate, with the coordination of the National Bank of Greece. In real life we are antagonists. In “The Smile”, we are competitors and the team decides how we can help in the main purpose of the Organization, thus to give every child the Smile she or he deserves. To be able to upgrade, maintain, expand and give our best in the technologies offered for the services that “The Smile” needs.”

In the context of this meeting, Cybertipline Hellas was launched: the online service that enables all our fellow citizens to easily, quickly and online, submit reports about children whose rights are violated, putting them at risk, for any reason -physical abuse, sexual exploitation, bullying, online seduction of minors, etc.  It is operated exclusively by the specialized staff of “The Smile of the Child”, Psychologists and Social Workers working at the National Helpline for Children SOS 1056, carrying out all appropriate actions for the best interest of the child.

This was followed by a simulation of a search process of a missing person, using Information and Communication Technologies, by “The Smile”, calling and managing the Hot/Helplines (1056, 116000, 116111, 1017), with the contribution of the “Thanasis Makris” Search and Rescue Team, the Mobile Medical Unit (Ambulance) and the Mobile Operational Unit for Emergency Communications and Disaster Management of the Agency. This simulation put into practice all the unique technological tools available to “The Smile” combined, which directly benefit the lives of children or vulnerable people.

“The Smile of the Child” participates in numerous European and international networks as an active member, including Missing Children Europe (MCE), the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (ISPCAN), Child Helpline International (CHI), WeProtect Global Alliance to end child sexual abuse and exploitation online, Eurochild, and many others.

We would like to thank all those who participated in this unique two-day meeting, which transcended the borders of Greece.

We would also like to thank our sponsors, who helped us provide the best possible hospitality of our partners:

  • Tzitzikas and Mermigkas (Ο Τζίτζικας και ο Μέρμηγκας)
  • Museum of Cycladic Art
  • Royal Olympic Hotel Athens
  • Xlarge prints

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