In December, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children convened the WePROTECT Global Alliance Summit to Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation. The Summit was co-hosted by the UK Government, the WePROTECT Global Alliance and the African Union. It brought together organisations, governments, industry and law enforcement from around the world, all working together to enhance the global response to prevent online child sexual exploitation and abuse (online CSEA).
During the Summit, the WePROTECT Global Alliance launched their Global Threat Assessment 2019 report. The 2019 report was the second Global Threat Assessment published by WePROTECT: a global, comprehensive view of technological change, victim vulnerability, offender behaviour, and the intersection point at which CSEA is most prevalent. The 2019 report notes that there are 46 million unique images or videos relating to CSEA in EUROPOL’s database, and 750,000 individuals looking to connect with children for sexual purposes online at any one time. It says:
“The growing availability of advanced anonymisation tools and end-to-end encryption peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks is enabling offenders to have easier, more secure access both to vulnerable children and to the networks of people who share a sexual interest in children…
“At the same time, increasing device ownership and unsupervised internet access by children increases their exposure to the risk of exploitation and abuse online.”
The report found that the scale, severity and complexity of online CSEA has created an urgent need for governments, law enforcement organisations, the technology industry, and third sector organisations to work together towards a collective response.
Chair of WePROTECT, Ernie Allen opened the Global Summit to Tackle Online Sexual Exploitation.
While those at the conference were encouraged by technical solutions currently being developed to tackle online CSEA, many were disappointed by companies’ moves towards encrypted messaging platforms without ensuring the safety of children and young people first. They were also concerned that very few companies publish their reporting and takedown metrics.
Read 5Rights Foundation and Professor Hany Farid’s briefing on end-to-end encryption and child sexual abuse material, which calls on all companies refrain from implementing end-to-end encryption until they can demonstrate that protections for children against abuse and exploitation can be assured, or improved.