The constant evolution of new technologies favours the dissemination of images showing the sexual abuse of minors

Child sexual exploitation refers to the sexual abuse of a person under the age of 18, as well as the production of images of such abuse and the exchange of these images online.

The sexual exploitation of children online is a phenomenon in constant evolution and is conditioned by the evolution of technology. Mobile connectivity, growing access to Internet in developing countries and the constant growth of pay-as-you-go transmission solutions, which provide the spectator with a high level of anonymity, are creating a trend towards commercial and live transmission of child sex abuse.

Europol has identified key threats in terms of child sex exploitation:

  • Peer-to-peer networks (P2P) and anonymous access to Dark net networks (for example, Tor). These computer-based environments continue to be the main platform from which to access material involving the abuse of minors and the main means of non-commercial distribution. These are invariably attractive to criminals and are easy to use. The higher level of anonymity and the strong possibilities of networking that the dark net offers, under the ” web surface”, seem to make criminals feel more comfortable to offend and discuss their sexual interests.
  • Live transmission of sexual child abuse. Facilitated by the latest technology, a trend that refers to the abuse of children in developing countries, who live in front of a camera on westerners’ request.
  • To a lesser extent, there is also evidence that commercials ways to exploit children sexually, such as reproduction of the abuse in real time, also contributes to an increase in the amount of CSEM[i] on line.
  • Live and faraway sexual abuse has the darkest links with the commercial distribution of CSEM. As new or invisible CSEM is a valuable currency within an offending community, live faraway abuse is, therefore, a way not only of acquiring more CSEM, but also of generating material of great “value”.
  • Online request and sexual extortion. The growing number of children and adolescents who possess intelligent telephones has come with the production of pornographic material generated by these very appliances. This material, initially shared without ill intentions, is often aimed at “collectors”, who proceed to exploit the victim, especially by resorting to extortion.
  • Networks and forensic awareness of criminals. Offenders learn from the mistakes for which they have been arrested with the application of the law.

The Europol cyber crime centre (EC3) gives support to the competent authorities of member states in the prevention and detection of all forms of crime associated with the sexual exploitation of children.

Provide assistance and experience in the fight against the distribution of material involving the abuse of children via all nature of online contexts, and address all forms of criminal conduct online against children, with the preparation, the pornographic material generated by them, sexual extortion and live transmission on the network.

The fight against the distribution of the material involving child abuse includes prevention and interception, and preventing peer-to-peer network exchanges, and also via commercial platforms. Accordingly, EC3 participates in the European financial coalition against the sexual commercial exploitation of children online (EFC), a network financed by the European Commission made up of police forces, NGOs and agents from the public and private sector.

[i] Initials of Contemporany Sex Offender Risk Management


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