The NetClean Report shows that the Coronavirus pandemic has affected child sexual abuse crime

The NetClean Report shows that the Coronavirus pandemic has affected child sexual abuse crime
26 January, 2021 NetClean
In Child protection, NC Report 2020

The NetClean Report shows that the Coronavirus pandemic has affected child sexual abuse crime

The NetClean Report – COVID-19 Impact 2020, released today, shows that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global increase in online child sexual abuse crime, and also affected law enforcement capacity to investigate these types of crimes.

Nearly five hundred police officers from 39 countries, the majority from the US and Europe, responded to the survey that provides the foundation for The NetClean Report – COVID-19 Impact 2020. Two in three police officers reported that the fallout from the pandemic, social restrictions, lockdowns and school closures, has affected online child sexual abuse crime. Half of the surveyed police officers reported that the pandemic has affected law enforcement capacity to investigate these types of crimes.

Adults and children have spent more time online

Already early on in the pandemic, predictions by the UN, Europol and the FBI, to name a few, signalled that the radical changes brought on by lockdowns and homeschooling would make vulnerable children even more vulnerable and put more children at risk.

The data collected for the report, supports these predictions and showed that perpetrators viewed the fallout from the pandemic as an opportunity to make contact with more children. Half of the surveyed police officers reported an increase in online child sexual abuse cases, such as grooming and sexual extortion. Half of the respondents also reported an increase in possession, receipt and distribution cases

Effect on capacity to investigate crimes

Half of the surveyed police officers also reported that the pandemic has affected their capacity to investigate child sexual abuse crimes, primarily due to an increase in workload, limited possibilities to conduct investigations when working remotely, limited possibilities to execute search warrants, difficulties in conducting interviews with victims, suspects and witnesses, and slower court processing times.

Difference between countries

The data in the survey was presented as a whole, but also divided into groups represented by the US and Europe as standout groups, with the UK and Sweden contributing with enough data to be analysed individually as well. Throughout the survey it was generally the case that police officers in the US had seen a bigger impact from the pandemic than the rest, with police officers in Sweden reporting the least impact.

Business Insight: Many stakeholders – many drivers

The report also contains a summary of interviews conducted with sixteen individuals working in different roles in sixteen different companies. From these conversations we wanted to learn why businesses choose to address child sexual abuse material in the corporate environment. An issue made even more pertinent by the COVID-19 pandemic as most organisations had to review and address IT security as work was moved out of the office environment and into people’s homes.

We learned that the overriding core drive is a desire to act ethically, and in line with corporate ethical values. However, as there are many stakeholders in most medium sized and big businesses, there are also a number of other drivers. These range from sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) frameworks, policy compliance and risk assessments from a compliance perspective, to IT security risks, brand protection and Human Resources drivers; ensuring that employees share the company’s core values, and that they don’t engage in criminal behaviour.

“The combination of increased time online and reduced capacity to investigate has produced, what one police officers called, a perfect storm.”

Important early indications

The report presents early indications, and it will take time until we know the full impact of the pandemic. However, early results indicate that school closures and other lockdown measures have been detrimental to already vulnerable children, and also to children in general. The combination of increased time online and reduced capacity to investigate has produced, what one police officers called, a perfect storm. Therefore it is important that policy makers consider these findings when considering future crises measures.

The insights into this unprecedented situation, together with the business’ insights, provides NetClean, and our core clientele (businesses and large organisations), with further impetus to not only take steps to protect IT environments, but to also talk about why. If we understand CSA crime, we will understand how to react, and how to quickly galvanise measures to combat it.

The NetClean Report – COVID-19 Impact 2020, is NetClean’s sixth consecutive report since we first started producing reports in 2015. What started as a s basic surgery and overview of child sexual abuse (CSA) crime, has grown into a larger and much more ambitious project, that contributes to NetClean’s ambition to add to the globally growing knowledge bank of CSA crime, which is used to create awareness and discourse about this word-wide problem.