Apps and platforms are used to store and distribute child sexual abuse material

  • Skype is the most common platform for live-streamed child sexual abuse.
  • Dropbox and Google services are frequently used to store and share child sexual abuse material.
  • Snapchat, Facebook and Kik are commonly mentioned social media platforms.

In a number of different questions, the police officers were asked which apps and online services are used to store and distribute child sexual abuse material. In the case of live-streaming the services are used to distribute the abuse itself rather than the material.

Skype is the most common platform for live-streamed child sexual abuse

The surveyed police officers were asked which applications, services or technologies they come across in their investigations of live-streamed child sexual abuse. They mentioned a wide range of social media platforms and chat apps with live-streaming technology, video call apps and video meeting services, live video apps, web-based chat apps and chat apps for gamers. In total sixty-four different apps, platforms and services were mentioned by name.

The most commonly mentioned apps/platforms were Skype followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Kik and Omegle. WhatsApp, TikTok, LiveMe, Instagram, Zoom and Periscope were also frequently mentioned.

“ Skype is by far the biggest one. There is no protection on that platform. Contact is usually made on some other social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, KIK, MYLOL, etc … but then moved to Skype to record the video stream.”

“ Skype is the predominant platform used. Also used is KIK and Snapchat etc.”

“ Any of the hundreds of private chat sites like ooVoo and Zoom. These private chat apps are exploding in use.”

“ Omegle, LiveMe, TikTok.”

“ Kik, Instagram, WhatsApp, Discord, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger.”

The results show that all possible platforms are used for live-streamed child sexual abuse, and that it is a problem for all platform providers. It may also indicate that the bigger the platform, and the more users, the bigger the problem.

Most frequently mentioned apps, platforms and technologies, that police officers reported seeing in their investigations of live-streamed child sexual abuse. Share of respondents that named the specific app/platform*

Dropbox and Google services are frequently used to store and share child sexual abuse material

The police officers were asked which cloud storage services they come across in their investigations into child sexual abuse material. Forty different services were mentioned in total. The large majority of respondents, eight in ten, answered that they come across child sexual abuse files stored on Dropbox. Nearly half mentioned Google Drive or Google Photos, one quarter mentioned Mega and one quarter mentioned OneDrive.

“ Dropbox has become the main cloud storage app we have been finding.”

“ iCloud and Google drive are the most common.”

“ Dropbox, iCloud, MEGA, Google Drive.”

“ Dropbox and Google Drive; However both of these cloud servers have sent us CyberTips whenever hash values are matched.”

Snapchat, Facebook and Kik are commonly mentioned social media platforms

The police officers were asked which social media platforms and chat apps they come across in their investigations into child sexual abuse material. Forty-nine different platforms and apps were mentioned in total. Half of the respondents mentioned Snapchat, Facebook and Kik. A third of the respondents mentioned Instagram and WhatsApp.

“ SnapChat predominantly, also Kik, WhatsApp, Hangouts, HeyNow.”

“ Kik, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook.”

“ Kik, Snapchat, WeMe … pretty much any video/chat app.”

“ Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.”

Most frequently mentioned cloud storage services, that the police officers reported seeing in their investigations of child sexual abuse material. Share of respondents that named the specific cloudstorage service*

Most frequently mentioned social media platforms and chat apps, that the police officers reported seeing in their investigations of child sexual abuse material. Share of respondents that named the specific social media platform or chat app*

The proactive platforms

It is important to note, that being among the most commonly mentioned apps or platforms does not automatically mean that they have the biggest share of the crime. In some cases the platforms that do most proactive work on this issue and report found material to law enforcement, show up more in investigations. The results should therefore be seen to indicate that the mentioned platforms are commonly used for child sexual abuse crimes. However, the results should not be seen as an indication that the platforms that are not mentioned are not used to share/stream child sexual abuse material.

Comment to insight 4-5

More results from the NetClean Report 2019