Offenders who consume live-streamed child sexual abuse

  • Offenders come from Europe and North America.
  • Opinions differ as to whether there is an overlap between offenders who groom/extort and offenders who order webcam shows.
  • Offenders in possession of evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse material also collect other types of child sexual abuse material.

Looking at each type of live-streaming, the surveyed police officers were asked (based on their investigations) to specify which countries offenders come from.

Offenders come from Europe and North America

Similar to the question about victims, responses about voluntarily self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse material and induced self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse material were very close in numbers. The respondents reported that offenders are primarily from North America (USA) and Europe (the same countries were mentioned when asked where victims are from). Four in ten (slightly less for induced child sexual abuse) reported that offenders come from North America, and more than one third that they come from Europe.

“ All over, but primarily USA.”

“ USA and western Europe.”

The country where they operate

However, again similar to the question about victims, a breakdown of the results showed that nearly nine in ten of the respondents answered their own country. The results most likely reflect the fact that the majority of police officers are working on cases close to home, and don’t necessarily reflect what the global situation looks like.

As with the question about victims, this indicates that many offenders come from the US and Europe. However, it does not indicate that there are no offenders in countries not mentioned.

Asia and Russia

Other geographical areas that were mentioned by one in twenty police officers, or more, were Asia and Russia. If Eastern Europe is removed from the European cohort, it shows five percent on its own. Asian countries/regions mentioned several times were China, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and the Middle East.

“ Asia, China, Philippines and other countries like Russia.”

“ Australia, USA, UK, Asian Countries.”

“ India, Pakistan, Greece.”

Locations of offenders who consume voluntarily self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse, induced self-produced live-streamed child sexual abuse and distant live-streamed child sexual abuse

Distant live-streaming

Responses regarding the location of offenders were more widely spread. More than one fifth of the respondents answered North America, nearly a quarter answered Europe. However, sixteen percent also answered Asia, more than five percent answered Russia, and just as many answered Australia and New Zealand. Similar to the question on victims, nearly one fifth of the respondents said that they don’t know or are unable to answer.

“ United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. ”

“ USA, Germany, Norway.”

“ US, Russia, India and Asian Countries.”

“ Russia/Ukraine Philippines/ Thailand.”

Different Asian countries mentioned

Although there were not enough answers to draw any firm conclusions, the survey results showed a slight discrepancy in the Asian countries mentioned in relation to location of victims and offenders. Countries mentioned in relation to victims were the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and India. For offenders, the countries mentioned were (in order of frequency) the Philippines, India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Middle East was also mentioned in the answers regarding offenders, but not regarding victims. The answers for both groups were similar with regards to Europe and North America.

Breakdown of the share of respondents that answered either the country where they operate, this country in addition to other countries, or solely other countries when asked where offenders are from

Countries mentioned in addition to or instead of where the respondents operate

Opinions differ as to whether there is an overlap between offenders who groom/extort and offenders who order webcam shows

The surveyed police officers were also asked whether they believe that offenders who pay for distant live-streamed child sexual abuse (webcam shows) are the same individuals who groom and sexually extort children on other platforms.

Their opinions on this differed greatly. One third of the respondents answered that they are the same individuals, and one third answered that they differ. One quarter of the respondents answered that they don’t know or don’t have enough experience of both types of crime to answer.

“ No real correlation between offenders that live-stream and those that groom through other applications from what I have dealt with. While there are a variety of applications used in this crime, most of what I see revolves around an offender using the same means repeatedly. They seem to feel safe/comfortable with a specific app/software and will continue to use it until they feel it has been compromised.

“ In my experience offenders tend to stick with one platform or the other, so if they are grooming and eliciting images and video from children on social media platforms, that is what they concentrate on.”

“ I don’t believe they differ. I think there is a strong correlation with those who would live-stream, groom and extort children, and also move to hands-on offending.”

“ I would say that in my experience, that about half of the offenders I have investigated have sextorted children and also paid for abuse to be streamed.”

Different offenders: Live-streaming is seen as more risky

The police officers who were of the opinion that it is different offenders who groom or sexually extort children and who pay for live-streamed webcam shows, reported different views on why this is so. Some commented that most offenders don’t need or want to pay for the abuse, or that live-streamed child sexual abuse is seen as more of a risk than grooming.

“ My experience is that those extorting are not paying for distant live-streamed, they know they can get it themselves.”

“ In my opinion if a suspect can get it for free they will always go that route first. I see more offenders trying to extort children personally online via webcam, or other means, than I see them paying for live streamed videos/webcam shows etc.”

“ […] The risk of paying for live streamed sexual abuse, I can only assume, is that the risk of detection is far too high for the low level offender, as most only appear to have basic technological knowledge and confidence in hiding their actions online.”

Different offenders: Live-streaming is seen as less risky

In direct opposition, others said that live-streaming is seen as less risky than grooming, as there is more distance to the victim. Or that live-streaming is a stepping stone to committing hands-on child sexual abuse.

“ There is, in my opinion, a desire for offenders to feel “safe”, using distant pay to view sites offers a greater perceived safety than the offender making the approach to individual adults or children, perhaps in their own country, with a greater perceived risk of capture by law enforcement.”

“ The contact the people are having [in distant live-streaming] is adult- to-adult. They are not involved in the child and generally don’t interact with the child. I believe this distances themselves from the situation and are different to those who intentionally converse with children.”

“ I believe that it is more rare that the same types of individuals engage in both activities. I believe that the people that pay for streaming services are those who have not necessarily reached the point of committing hands-on offences yet.”

Same offenders

Police officers who answered that the offenders who will pay for webcam shows and those who groom and sexually extort children are the same, commented that this may be for several different reasons. Several said that offenders will use any means available to access child sexual abuse material and sexually abuse children, and will act on any opportunity that they are given. Some likened it to an addictive behaviour.

“ I think anyone with that mind-set and sexual interest will take part in any related forms of deviant behavior if given the opportunity.”

“ In my opinion and the offenders that I’ve dealt with personally. Offenders will do what ever it takes to get their “fix” any way that they can. They act in much the same ways that a person who is addicted to an illicit substance does.”

Other respondents commented that offenders will use both paid live-streamed child sexual abuse and material acquired from grooming or sexual extortion as a means of payment or access to “climb” in organised forums of offenders (where you only get access to certain ”levels” if you upload new and unseen material to the forum).

“ In my experience the people who pay/access these kinds of services play an active role in grooming activities. They may be trying to get new videos/pictures to share with their community and climb in this way in their pyramidical structure.”

Perceived anonymity

The respondents who answered that offenders move between grooming/ extorting victims and paying for distant live-streamed child sexual abuse (web shows), but mentioned that it is less common, commented that this is as a result of perceived risks with anonymity, and a perceived distance to the child.

“ Given an opportunity and under­standing of the different platforms offenders can move between them but I believe it too less common. We have found that those using live-stream appear to be more reluctant or even confident to directly engage with children. They appear to be of a mentality that their webcam offending has a higher degree of anonymity due to the fact the victims are often in poor and remote locations with less chance of Law Enforcement Agency involvement.”

“ I have seen that offenders are not easily convinced to send payment over the Internet for fear of being identified, but that if they feel they are anonymous they will groom and extort children online at every opportunity.”

Whether there is an overlap between offenders who groom/extort children on online platforms and offenders who pay for distant live-streamed child sexual abuse (webcam shows)

Offenders in possession of evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse material also collect other types of child sexual abuse material

To further try to understand offenders who possess evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse material, the surveyed police officers were asked whether these offenders also collect or store other types of child sexual abuse material, or if they only engage in live-streamed child sexual abuse. Eight in ten of the surveyed police officers reported that it is common or very common to find other types of child sexual abuse material in investigations that include evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse. Less than one in ten (7.3 %) answered that it is uncommon or very uncommon to find other types of material.

“ Pretty much guaranteed.”

“ They are almost always in possession of other child abuse material.”

Whether offenders who are in possession of evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse also have other types of child sexual abuse material

All types of material

According to the surveyed police officers, nearly all types of child sexual abuse material is commonly found in investigations that also include evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse material.

Hands-on child sexual abuse material produced by another offender

The most common type of child sexual abuse material found in the investigations is hands-on child sexual abuse material produced by another offender. This is the material that is most often referred to when speaking about child sexual abuse material in general terms. More than six in ten respondents answered that this is the most common type of material found, and nine in ten of the surveyed police officers answered that this type of material is common or very common.

Voluntarily self-produced material

Voluntarily produced child sexual abuse material was reported as nearly as common, more than eight in ten reported that such material is common or very common. However, only one in ten of the surveyed police officers reported this as the most common type of material.

“ 50/50 between voluntary and child sexual abuse images.”

Innocent, grooming, sextortion and hands-on material

More than six in ten of the surveyed police officers also reported that it is common or very common to find innocent material or grooming material. They reported that it is slightly less common to find sexual extortion material or hands-on child sexual abuse material produced by the suspect themselves.

“ It can be hard to tell sometimes if the materiel is from grooming/sexual extortion if there is no chat from messaging services such as snapchat, kik and skype.”

“ Hands-on offending does happen but the majority of suspects are image collectors and while possible would place hands-on if the situation presented itself many are not actively seeking one.”

It is, although less common than the other types, interesting to note that one in three police officers answered that it is common or very common to find hands-on child sexual abuse material produced by the suspect themselves. Another third of the respondents answered that this is neither common nor uncommon.

Most common types of child sexual abuse material that police officers come across in investigations that include evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse

Frequency of other types of child sexual abuse material, that police officers come across in investigations that include evidence of live-streamed child sexual abuse

Comment to insight 1-3

More results from the NetClean Report 2019