December 24, 2020

The pandemic and isolation make kids more vulnerable

“Predators openly discuss the fact that stay-at-home was beneficial to them.”

Yiota Souras of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) says that there have been an explosion of reports of child sexual exploitation. For the first half of 2020, reports of child porn, trafficking, and other types of exploitation across the USA rose by 90 percent, up from 2019. She says the pandemic was one factor that motivated predators.

During the COVID-19 lockdown crime activity relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation on the surface web and dark web significantly increased.

Travel restrictions shifted the focus of the offenders to the exchange of CSAM (child sexual abuse material) online.

While the world has battled the health and economic effects of the coronavirus, another global issue has raged with little notice and without the additional money and resources to effectively battle it.

Just how everyone adapted to the new way of life, offenders adapted to the new way of their criminal activity.

Many millions of images and videos of children and even newborn babies being raped and abused – or of children coerced into performing sex acts on camera - that's what is flooding dark corners of the Internet right now.

People forced to stay indoors spend more time in the cyberspace.

“During the lockdown, we turned to the internet for a sense of normality: shopping, working and learning online at a scale never seen before”

Livestreaming apps, online games, popular social media platforms are a massive hunting ground for sexual predators.

In April 2020, Europol published a paper "Catching the virus: cybercrime, disinformation and the COVID-19 pandemic", where provided some examples of predators' messages on the Dark Web. Users there indicate their anticipation that children are going to be spending an increased amount of time online, with references made to the Omegle application. Other users indicate they will have more time to download available material.

The demand is so high, some child exploitation websites and platforms are crashing, due to the large number of offenders trying to access illegal material.

The key factor in every fight is cooperation

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Europol has not only been monitoring the impact of the crisis on online child sexual exploitation, but has also assured continuous support to EU Member States and other law enforcement partners to respond to these threats.

Successful campaigns Europol amplified in this period include:

  • COVID-19 global parental advice, by the Australian e-Safety Commissioner;
  • #DontBeAnEasyCatch campaign, by Saving Missing Children;
  • #ProtectChildrenTogether campaign, by Suojellaan Lapsia ry/Skydda Barn rf/ Protect Children;
  • #Say No! campaign.

Since CSAM primarily originates from developing countries, it is essential that EU law enforcement authorities continue to cooperate with and support the investigations of law enforcement in these jurisdictions.

Fighting child sexual exploitation is a joint effort between law enforcement, EU Member States, non-governmental organisations, international organisations and the private sector and increased cooperation is needed to coordinate efforts and prevent a fragmented approach and duplicated efforts.

Posted by: 0197409035 Natsibulina Valeriia for the final project of the course Global Governance and International Organizations