Child sexual abuse online up 250% in 3 years
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — Cases of internet-based sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines continued to go up, with eight out of every 10 perpetrators related by blood or affinity to the victims, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the International Justice Mission (IJM), found that the estimated number of internet protocol (IP) addresses used for internet-based child sexual exploitation in the country rose 250 percent from 23,333 in 2014 to 81,723 in 2017.
“The results of the study show that Osec (online sexual exploitation of children) is a growing and heinous crime,” Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar said in a statement released by the IJM.
Villar is in charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“We need to act as a global community — ending impunity in both source countries like the Philippines,’’ she said. “The Philippine government is committed to sustaining our collaboration with international law enforcement agencies in combating this threat against our children.”
The IJM released on May 21 the study titled “Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines: Analysis and Recommendations for Governments, Industry and Civil Society.”
Child porn on FB
Authorities have asked Facebook to give up data of those behind the “alarming proliferation” of pages on the social media platform that promote child pornography during the COVID-19 community quarantine.
The DOJ, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police said the platform was being used to distribute and publish child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) online.
Certain Facebook pages with suggestive names are used to promote and facilitate exchanges of child pornography among the members, the law enforcement agencies said in a statement.
The administrators and members of such Facebook pages manage to evade law enforcers by regularly changing their names and keeping the pages private.
The agencies asked the public to report to law enforcement authorities goings-on on Facebook “that tend to prejudice a child’s physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, psychological and social well-being.”Global hot spot
The IJM study, conducted from 2017 to 2019, stated that the Philippines was a “global hot spot” for children’s abuse online.
It examined 90 cases that were investigated between 2011 and 2017, involving 381 victims.
Among the 43 victims for whom the exact length of abuse was known, the average length of abuse was two years, ranging from two months to four years.
An analysis of victim profiles showed that the median age was only 11, with the youngest less than 1 year old.
Another unsettling finding, IJM said, was that 41 percent of the abuses were facilitated by biological parents and 42 percent by other relatives—or at least 83 percent by people related to child victims.
The study, however, was unable to measure the prevalence of Osec—a subset of internet-based child sexual exploitation—due to inconsistencies in the quality of reporting by electronic service providers (ESPs) and because ESPs are not currently detecting livestreamed abuse.
Since technology was yet to be developed or deployed by ESPs to detect livestreamed abuse, the IJM said it was often uncovered only when a foreign law enforcement agency identified an offender for a different but related offense like possession or sharing of CSEM.
Foreign authorities’ referrals
The study revealed that 64 percent of Philippine Osec cases were initiated by referrals from foreign authorities.
“The tech industry should prioritize detection of all child sexual exploitation materials—especially newly created CSEM and livestreaming—because of the gravity of harm that repeated sexual exploitation causes victims,” IJM Philippines director Samson Inocencio Jr. said in a press statement.
“There are children who need rescue now, but rescue starts with timely detection and robust reporting,” he added.
The study recommended legislation expanding ESP reporting requirements to make CyberTipline reports more useful to law enforcement; greater international law enforcement collaboration, such as placing foreign police liaisons in source countries; and implementing child-protective measures and trauma-informed care from rescue to reintegration.
It also proposed increasing Osec-dedicated staffing, budget and collaboration among law enforcement agencies, and improving collaboration in information and intelligence-sharing, measurement and data collection and research on Osec.
The study was made in partnership with the government, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and other concerned parties under the US-Philippines Child Protection Compact Partnership between the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Philippine government.
—WITH A REPORT FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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