Technological expansion, growing Internet coverage and the widespread availability of mobile devices are increasingly digitalising our society. Criminals that sexually exploit children online are becoming more entrepreneurial with these technological developments and profiting financially.
Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) have produced a strategic assessment analysing the threats and trends of online child sexual exploitation (CSE), in order to recommend solutions and enable law enforcement and the private sector to jointly prevent and combat these horrific crimes. The report has been drafted by EC3 for the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Abuse of Children Online (EFC), which brings together key actors from law enforcement, private industry and civil society in Europe to fight CSE.
Through an examination of the scale and extent of existing activities, as well as the most recent developments, the research shows that the live streaming of abuse for payment is no longer an emerging trend but an established reality. It is of particular concern in the context of emerging markets due to increased Internet adoption there.
It is also now understood that both individuals with a limited sexual interest in children, as well as those having such an interest, produce and distribute child abuse material (CAM) using new online technologies. This includes the profit-driven blackmailing of children to disseminate indecent materials depicting them, as well as the commercial distribution of images and videos which are self-generated or obtained through online solicitation. In addition, new instances of commercial distribution via the Deep web and the Darknet have been witnessed. The kind of material being commercially traded can be of a 'tailor made' nature, created on demand, and can lead directly to further hands-on abuse.
Europol's Deputy Director Operations Wil van Gemert says: "Europol's EC3 in cooperation with members of the European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Abuse of Children Online (EFC) have carried out valuable work in mapping the threats and trends of the horrific crime of online child sexual exploitation. The findings of the research will aid law enforcement and the private sector around the world to safeguard vulnerable children. Our commitment to make Europe a safer place for its citizens, including so many children, is strong and we will continue tracking down the suspected criminals and their victims".
Further findings of the report include a shift from using traditional credit card payments to those providing the most anonymity, namely alternative payment options including virtual currency, and a marked increase in the abuse of legitimate hosting services for distributing CAM, such as cyberlockers.
The report has been produced with invaluable contributions from the European law enforcement community, and EFC members: INHOPE; IWF; CEOP; VISA; MasterCard; PayPal; Western Union; Web Shield; G2; GSMA; Google; Microsoft; ICMEC (International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children); Missing Children Europe; Eurojust; and CEPOL. Europol's EC3, together with partners from the international law enforcement community and the private sector, will use these findings to further combat these abhorrent crimes.
For further information about Europol, please contact:
Lisanne Kosters, Europol Corporate Communications, +31 70 302 5001