We need to teach kids safe internet behaviour
The number of police officers who perceive that there has been an increase in the use of social media etc to groom victims or share images of child sexual abuse material, has increased in comparison with the 2016 NetClean report.
In the NetClean 2017 report police officers state that they see more use of social media, chatrooms and apps, also linking this development to higher levels of live-streaming and grooming online.
Australian Taskforce Argos tracks offenders behaviour online and comments on the findings in our report, highlighting that the best thing we can do for children is to teach them to be safe online.
By Taskforce Argos, Queensland Police, Australien
Offenders modify their methodology and behaviour with the development of technology, but also as a result of specific police methods becoming publicly known. It is important that all of us in law enforcement and industry are careful about what we share. We know that every piece of information that gets out into the public, also gets shared onto the darkweb forums and platforms.
From our experience it is increasingly difficult to identify child victims due to the offenders de-identifying images in different ways. There is a high demand for new and unique material and in order to stay anonymous offenders hide clues and crop out information.
More material from Latin America
In most cases when an image is shared onto a group on the darknet, it progresses to be widely shared on the clearnet after six to eight months. What we are seeing both in offenders’ collections and by monitoring online groups and distribution methods, is that images containing more detail and information get shared within a very small group of people. These images are perceived as of higher ‘value’and as such, generally don’t get shared outside of closed networks as readily as less ‘desirable’material. One of the reasons for this is that offenders want to fantasise about the images and with highly anonymised photos there is less for them to focus on. We are now seeing a rise in images from other parts of the world, such as Latin America, where offenders are not yet disguising/masking/removing backgrounds and faces.
More “innocent” images
Following this trend, we are also seeing more collections of images that are originally innocent (from beaches, carnivals, or pictures that people post of their children in their social networks) as it is now incredibly easy to access this type of material online. We notice it because we are currently looking online for children that are not necessarily depicted as victims of hands-on sexual abuse. However, when you think about the children and parents, who are unaware that these images have been put on child sexual abuse websites, you wish that people would be more careful with what they post online.
We are also seeing more images generated from live cams and live-streaming. There are dedicated sections on forums explaining how to access children online and there are people who specialise in videoing victims. Significantly, we are seeing that children are now self-producing more material than ever before. There are, for example, online challenges among kids where they are daring each other to touch different parts of their bodies or to carry out other acts that are then shared online. Another example is a recent investigation we conducted where a man convinced over 150 children globally that he was Justin Bieber and instructed them to do horrendous acts on camera for him in the belief they would get concert tickets or VIP passes.
As a global community we are struggling with the best way to talk to children about these issues and the serious ramifications of what they are doing. We need to find an effective way to inform and educate children and parents about online safety and that the video and images they are posting online are ending up in the collections of child sex offenders globally.
Interviewed at Taskforce Argos are Adèle Desirs, Jon Rouse, Paul Griffiths, Scott Ballantyne och Stuart Butler.