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Prevalence of online child sexual abuse material rises 87% since 2019, report shows

A report on the prevalence of online child sexual abuse material has shown that since 2019, there has been a rise of 87% with India being one of the countries that is fueling this disturbing trend. The report by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows that the volume of child sexual abuse material has increased by 32 million.

WeProtect Global Alliance, in its fourth Global Threat Assessment Report, showed that its surveys in 2021 found that 54 per cent of respondents had experienced ‘online sexual harms’ during childhood. And, there has been a 360 per cent increase in self-generated sexual imagery of children in the age of 7-10-years from 2020 to 2022.

Social gaming platforms, the report said, where conversations can take place have been used to groom children. In some cases, grooming on these platforms took only 19 seconds, with an average grooming time of just 45 minutes. Social gaming environments that facilitate adult-child intermingling, exchanging virtual gifts and public ranking systems, significantly increase these risks.

The report also revealed that surveys conducted under Disrupting Harm, a joint project by ECPAT International, INTERPOL, and UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight) across 13 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa and

Southeast Asia in 2022, revealed that as many as 20 per cent of children in some countries were subjected to child sexual exploitation and abuse online in the past year.

“Online-facilitated child sexual exploitation and abuse worldwide demands our attention and action right now. New technological capabilities further exacerbate existing risks, and the situation is no different in India. Children’s safety must be non-negotiable,” Ian Drennan, executive director of the WeProtect Global Alliance said.

The report also points to the emergence of new forms of abuse, like financial sexual extortion and AI-generated imagery, and that it takes only 43 minutes to groom a child online. Cases of financial sexual extortion went up from 139 in 2021 to over 10,000 in 2022.

Vidya Reddy of Tulir Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse said that the silver lining is the increase in reporting of such cases. “This shows more social awareness. However, the complexities surrounding this issue go beyond culture and extend to infrastructure gaps, such as lengthy delays in cyber forensic processing, contributing to underreporting,” Reddy said.

(Published 22 October 2023, 16:13 IST)

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