Executive summary

EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY

The first part of the NetClean Report – COVID 19 Impact 2020 looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected child sexual abuse (CSA) crime. Section two of the report looks at why businesses and organisations choose to address child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in corporate environments.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE LAW ENFORCEMENT SURVEY

We surveyed 470 law enforcement officers from 39 countries who work on cases pertaining to CSA crime. Three countries had large enough samples to allow the data to be considered individually; the United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It was also possible to consider the data from Europe as a standout sample.

Difference between countries

Generally, with some exceptions, respondents from the UK and the European sample matched the results provided by the whole sample of 470 law enforcement professionals. The US respondents generally reported bigger effects on CSA crime as a result of the pandemic, whereas the Swedish respondents generally reported smaller effects.

Restrictions have affected CSA crime

The result shows that the fallout from the pandemic has clearly affected online CSA crime and has had an impact on offline CSA crime. The surveyed police officers reported that lockdowns, social restrictions and school closures led to both adults and children spending more time online, therefore increasing the risk of online CSA crime.

Confinement to the home meant that children may have been isolated with their abuser. During school closures, children did not have access to mandatory reporters, which according to the respondents affected the number of reports of offline CSA crime.

Online CSA activity and online reporting has increased

Law enforcement reported an increase in online activity, primarily in attempts to contact children, in volumes of voluntarily self-produced CSAM, and in peer-to-peer downloads. They also reported an increase in activity on the darknet. Respondents also reported a moderate increase in cybertips and online reports during the first eight months of the pandemic.

Moderate increase in actual CSA investigations

Half of the respondents reported an increase in possession, receipt and distribution cases, and also in online CSA cases, such as grooming and sexual extortion. Just over a quarter of the respondents reported an increase in physical CSA cases. Of those who reported an increase, the majority reported a moderate increase.

COVID-19 has had an effect on the capacity to investigate CSA crimes

More than half of the respondents reported that the fallout from the pandemic affected law enforcement capacity to investigate CSA crime. They reported that an increase in workload, limitations associated with working from home, suspended search warrants, difficulties in conducting interviews and limited court processes led to slower processing time or cases not being investigated at all. However, more than four in ten respondents reported no effects on law enforcement capacity as a result of the pandemic.

First insight

The report provides a first insight into how the pandemic has affected CSA crime; however it will be a number of years until we know the full impact of COVID-19 in relation to this crime. This is reflected in the relatively large share of respondents who answered “Don’t know” throughout the report.

 

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE BUSINESS INTERVIEWS

To identify the drivers for addressing CSAM in corporate environments, interviews were conducted with sixteen employees from sixteen businesses and organisations, who work in the areas of: Sustainability, Ethics & Compliance, IT Security, Human Resources and Legal. The sixteen businesses and organisations are from a wide range of different industries, of different sizes, and from both the private and public sector.

Ethics as the primary driver

Addressing CSAM in a business environment can be a complex issue as the initiative needs the buy-in from many different stakeholders who will have different reasons, drivers, for engaging in this work. However, throughout the interviews we realised that the companies’ core drive is to act as ethical entities, and this was furthered by their statements that they consider the drive to protect and safeguard children the most crucial reason for installing software to identify CSAM on IT equipment.

Many stakeholders, many drivers

Other drivers for addressing CSAM in corporate environments ranged 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 (HR) drivers; ensuring that employees share the company’s core values, and that they don’t engage in criminal behaviour.

 

CONCLUSION

It is too early to draw any major conclusions from the results presented in this report, however we must pay attention to signs and trends that we see forming. The results indicate that school closures and other lockdown measures have been detrimental to already vulnerable children, but also to children in general. Therefore it is important that policy makers consider these findings when considering future crises measures. The insights into this unprecedented situation also provides NetClean, and our core clientele (businesses and large organisations), with more impetus to not only take steps to protect IT environments, but also to talk about why. If we understand CSA crime, we will understand how to react, and how to quickly galvanise measures to combat it.

 

For more information about child sexual abuse crime, please read all our reports. For more information about how to protect your IT environment from being used to access child sexual abuse material read about NetClean ProActive and NetClean ProTective. Also follow our work by reading our blog and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.