The spread of live-streamed child sexual abuse material

  • Split view on whether live-streamed child sexual abuse is common or uncommon.
  • Voluntarily self-produced live-streaming is most common.
  • Distant live-streaming is less common.
  • Live-streaming is increasing.

Live streaming

Live-streaming is mentioned as a challenge and an increasing problem in the last three NetClean Reports. In the 2016 report live-streaming was one of four challenges most frequently mentioned by the surveyed police officers. In the 2017 report one in ten police officers said that live-streaming is increasing in chatrooms and chat applications. And in the 2018 report, live-streamed child sexual abuse was mentioned both in connection to trafficking and use of cryptocurrencies.

In the 2019 report, we look at how common live-streamed child sexual abuse is in general; different types of live-streaming; and how it is developing.

Live-streamed child sexual abuse

Live-streamed child sexual abuse is transmitted online in real time to the viewer. Unless the viewer deliberately records the live-stream, no material is saved. Therefore, what we look at here is evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse; captures of the abuse in the form of images and videos.

Three different types

Live-streamed child sexual abuse takes on many guises, but we have chosen in this report to categorise it into the following three types:

1. Voluntarily self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse

Voluntarily self-produced live-streaming features children or teenagers who voluntarily, with mutual consent, engage in live-streaming in which they are in a state of undress and/or engage in sexual behaviour. It might only be intended for a boyfriend/girlfriend, or posted via a game or app without sexual intent. Because of the sharing nature of the internet captures can find their way into investigations of child sexual abuse.

2. Induced self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse

This is live-streaming that is a result of grooming or sexual extortion. In the case of grooming the child is coerced into live-streaming while they are in a state of undress and/or engage in sexual behaviour. In the case of sexual extortion they are threatened or forced into live-streaming the abuse.

3. Distant live-streamed child sexual abuse

Distant live-streaming is webcam shows that are ordered by an adult viewer. In the live-stream an adult is also present and is either physically involved in the abuse, or coercing or forcing the child into conducting
sexual acts.

Split view on whether live-streamed child sexual abuse is common or uncommon

Answers from the surveyed police officers show a split view on whether evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse is common or uncommon in their investigations. Nearly four in ten (37.7 %) of the surveyed police officers reported that the material is common or very common in their investigations. However, just a few percent more (41.9 %) reported that it is uncommon or very uncommon. The rest, one fifth of the police officers, reported that it is neither common nor uncommon.

The added comments also showed their divided views:

”The last two cases I had the videos were 70 percent or more live-streamed content that had been recorded.”

”Last case I worked was 90 percent screen captures of live-streams.”

”So far this year we have not had a live-streamed child sexual abuse case.”

”I have not yet come across a live-stream sex abuse case.”

Frequency of live-streamed child sexual abuse in police investigations

Voluntarily self-produced live-streaming is most common

Somewhat contradictory to the results above, nearly seventy percent of the respondents reported that captures of voluntarily self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse is common or very common in their investigations. More than half reported that this is the most common form of live-streamed material that they come across.

Several of the respondents commented that voluntarily self-produced material most often depicts teenagers.

” Teenagers are the most common that I have dealt with.”

” I primarily see self-produced sexting videos by teenagers.”

Several of the respondents added that it can often be very difficult to determine whether material is voluntarily produced or induced.

” ‘Apparently’ voluntarily self-produced material can sometimes be hard to distinguish from induced material. Teenagers (or younger) interacting with adults posing as much younger contemporaries is clearly commonplace.”

“ […] It is difficult to judge whether it is voluntarily or by grooming/threats.”

Induced self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse is common

Captures of induced live-streamed child sexual abuse is reported as slightly less common than voluntarily produced material. However, nearly sixty percent of the respondents answered that it is common or very common to come across evidence of induced live-streamed child sexual abuse material. More than one third of the respondents also reported that induced live-streamed child sexual abuse is the most common type of live-streaming in their investigations.

” The vast majority is live-streaming groomed victim videos.”

” Often the videos appear to be of children responding to prompting from the screen they are visible in, eg such as via Skype, Omegle and this is being recorded by the suspect.”

Frequency of different types of live-streamed child sexual abuse

Most common type of live-streamed child sexual abuse

Distant live-streaming is less common

In contrast to the two other categories, the respondents reported that distant live-streaming, such as paid for cam shows, is less common. Half of the respondents answered that distant live-streaming is uncommon or very uncommon, and nearly one quarter said that it is neither common nor uncommon.

However, this result might depend on the type of investigations that the respondents work on, as one in ten police officers reported that distant live-streaming is the most common form of live-streaming material in their investigations.

” […] I come across material when looking through illegal material and it is mostly recorded from the screen and from Asia.”

“ We don’t often see live-streaming but it is common to see remnants in case it occurred. Often paid for exchanges with south east Asian countries where the mother will expose children to the camera. If we are lucky (as an investigator) we will have screen recordings or similar which can be used as part of their prosecution and safeguarding of the children.”

Other forms of live-streamed child sexual abuse

Nearly half of the respondents also specified that there are other types of live-streaming, although they are less common. According to the surveyed police officers this is primarily material that comes from secret filming or hacked cameras, but it can also be already recorded child sexual abuse material being live-streamed to someone else.

” Hacked webcams streaming footage or cams when the IoT protocols of the device was not secure enough.”

” Secret filming.”

” Recorded video of child exploitation material streamed via live-streaming platforms.”

Live-streaming is increasing

More than half of the respondents reported that live-streaming is on the increase. One fifth of the respondents answered that it is neither increasing nor decreasing.

” It is becoming an increasing problem.”

” Uncommon at present in my experience, but appears to be on the increase when considering cases of colleagues in same office.”

” Increased in the form of self-production live-streaming (example teenage girls live-streaming for what they believe is a teenage boy).”

Whether live-streamed child sexual abuse has increased or decreased in the last three years

Comment to insight 1-3

More results from the NetClean Report 2019