Child sexual abuse material is today stored on all possible devices and shared in all sorts of fora on the internet. The nature of sharing information follows the development of technology which throws up new challenges for law enforcement.
The technological development that is having the single most impact on child sexual abuse investigations is Artificial Intelligence (AI). I have used AI for many years now and in the past two or three years there have been some incredible developments.
Digital development has enabled offenders to produce and share child sexual abuse material at a previously impossible scale. In addition, the last decade’s development of social media platforms and gaming platforms has enabled offenders to reach children directly, and abuse them over the internet without meeting them in person, adding a new dimension to this crime. Live-streaming services, examined closer in this report, has pushed this development further.
The NetClean Report 2019, the fifth of its kind is now available. This year the report is based on two different enquiries – one with law enforcement and one with businesses. The results, summarised in the report, help us understand the nature of child sexual abuse crime, how it is developing and what we must do to further ensure that we fight it as well as we can.
Last week I was invited to speak at the UN Headquarters in New York, where the Working Group for Child Online Safety met for the launch of the new Broadband Commission report. The launch was hosted by Permanent Mission of Sweden, Childhood Foundation USA, Broadband Commission and End Violence Against Children.
Self-produced material, whether voluntarily made or produced through grooming and extortion is on the rise. The images fall within a broad spectrum, from everyday holiday snaps to sexual extortion where victims are forced to take images of themselves.
The Head of Team, Analysis Project Twins, EC3, at Europol comments on this development, based on Europol’s observations of online communication and organisation.
In our experience it is extremely rare that child sexual abuse material is sold on the internet. Offenders either search for the readily available free material, or they trade images and films with each other.
Michael Sheath from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a UK charity that runs a helpline for people with concerns about negative aspects of their sexuality, comments on findings from the NetClean Report.
Throughout the year we will be sharing insights from our NetClean Report 2018. First out is the introduction penned by Dr. Victoria Baines who reflects on the fight against child sexual abuse as it enters its third decade. Read about how technological development has far outstripped our expectations, and how collaboration and knowledge is setting the agenda in the fight against child sexual abuse.